1 Peter ii. 17. Fear God. Few duties are more frequently or solemnly enjoined upon us in the word of God, than that which is commanded in the text. From the beginning to the end of the holy volume, its importance and necessity are every where inculcated. When the Lord descended in majesty upon Sinai, and gave his laws to the chosen people, he said, " O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me." (Deut. v. 29.) In the prophet Malachi, (i. 6.) he reproaches those who are destitute of this principle^ by inquiring, " If I be a master, where is my fear ?" In Jeremiah, when speaking of the privileges and blessings of that covenant of grace on which all our hopes are founded, one of his chief promises with regard to believers is, " I will put my fear in their hearts." (Jer. xxxii. 10.) When in the Revelation

MISCELLA EOUS. 3(3^ we behold an angel flying through the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach, we hear him cry with a loud voice, " Fear God, and give glory unto him." (Rev. xiv. 6.) Inspired men upon earth correspond with God and his angels; and in numberless passages teach us, that, except we have this sentiment, we are yet unacquainted w ith even the beginning of wisdom, have no interest in the love of God, and are not authorized to entertain any hopes of future felicity. To quote all the passages which speak this language, would be to transcribe

a large portion of the Bible. But if a proper fear of God is found only in the pious, there is, on the other hand, a species of fear to which no promises are made, which is the characteristic of those who are in the bondage of sin, which is the earnest of everlasting punishment ; that fear which was felt by Cain, and by Judas, which caused fallen Adam to fly from God, which will convulse the souls of the perishing at the judgment-day, while they call upon the rocks and the mountains to fall on them, and cover them, and which, according to James, is felt by the devils themselves, who, groaning under present anguish, tremble at future pains. Every one will perceive that these two species of fear are perfectly distinct. What a difference between the fear of an Adam making him unwilling to meet his maker, and that of an Abraham, when God gave him that precious testimony, " ow I know that thou fearest me ;" between the fear of a hardened, though affrighted Cain, and that of an Isaac, of whom it was recorded that God was the fear; between the fear of a Pharaoh, impenitent, though trembling under the rod of the Almighty, and that of a Moses, filled with solemn reverence and awe.

366 SERMO CII. and not daring to approach the burning bush from which Jehovah spake unto him ; between the fear of the Philistines, who were penetrated with dismay by the plagues which God inflicted upon them when they had taken the ark, and that of the Levites when they, with sacred veneration of soul, carried back this august symbol of the divine presence, " serving the Lord with fear, and rejoicing with trembling;" between the fear of the fiend, who curses, blasphemes,

and despairs, and that of the seraph, who humbly veils his face before the Eternal, not daring to look upon the splendours of his glory ! Since, then, the fear of God is to be found both in the holy and the wicked ; since it is good or evil, according to the different motives which produce it, the different emotions which accompany it, and the different effects which result from it, we should carefully examine into its nature, and inquire whether the fear which we possess is of the nature which God requires. And this is the object of the ensuing discourse. It is a point of so much consequence, so closely connected with our dearest interests, that I may surely expect your solemn attention. There are two principal species of fear, as we may readily perceive by consulting our own emotions : the fear of apprehension, and the fear of respect. The first has for its foundation that evil which he who is feared can inflict; the second arises from the high idea we have of him for whom we entertain this sentiment. The first is exercised towards a being who, we suppose, has the will and the power to hurt us ; the second is felt when, apprehending nothing from his anger, we entertain respect, esteem, and veneration for him.

MISCELLA EOUS. 367 Let us consider these separately, and commence with the fear of respect. This is always felt by the true believer. Can he avoid feeling it, when he views on the one hand the splendour of the perfections of God, and on the

other, his own littleness and baseness ? When we form the contrast between the strength and uncontrolled authority of God and our weakness; between his greatness and supremacy and our nothingness : between his holiness and our pollution; his light and our darkness ; must we not be filled with reverence and awe ? This is the proper homage of the creature before the Creator. These are sentiments which are felt, and through eternity will be felt, by the angels and the redeemed, who behold these perfections more illustriously displayed than they are to us. What then ought to be the conduct of men who are so far inferior to these exalted intelligences in elevation, in holiness, in w isdom and power ? Ought they not in like manner to abase themselves before the Lord ? " There is no single perfection in the divine nature which is not a proper foundation, and may not suggest motives for this fear. Most holy, he abhors iniquity : Omnipresent, nothing can be hid from him : All-wise, he cannot be deceived : the Governor of the world, he observes and recompenses the actions of his creatures : Almighty, he can inflict on them what punishments he pleases : Eternal, they cannot, even by death, escape from him."* Most good, he deserves our attachment. When the believer views all these perfections beautifully harmonizing, and * Jortin, i. 308.

368 SERMO CII. has a sense of the glorious majesty of Jehovah, will not his soul be humbled, and shrink into nothing before these infinite and uncreated splendours? Will he not be filled with the fear of respect?

But it is unnecessary to dwell on the justness of this duty : every rational being must immediately acknowledge it. But, alas ! my brethren, how many are there who neglect it ! Indeed, every sin is opposed to this fear, since every sin tramples on the authority and outrages the greatness of God. But though all iniquities violate the reverential fear of the Lord, there are some which do it in a more direct and explicit manner than others. Such are blasphemy, which denies his perfections ; murmurings at his Providence, as though we were better or wiser than he, and could instruct him how with greater propriety to govern the universe ; perjury, which solemnly calls upon him to witness a falsehood, and invokes him to punish it ; profane swearing, which tosses about with profane levity his names and his attributes, which heaven adores, at which hell trembles, and which never should be thought or spoken of by mortals but with reverence and awe ; and sacrilege, which alienates to common uses what has solemnly been devoted to the Lord. All such persons may without hesitancy know that the fear of God is not in them. With respect to the/ear of apprehension, which has as its foundation the evils which God can inflict on us, it is of two different kinds : we may fear to offend and displease God, and we may fear to be punished for it. When the former is the motive of this fear, it is called filial fear, because it is the sentiment of an affectionate child towards its parent. Such a child

MISCELLA EOUS. 369 does what his father desires, not for fear of being disinherited if he disobeys, but because it would

pain him to displease one whom he loves. In like manner the believer complies with the will of God, not merely because he fears hell, but because he fears to offend this merciful Father, to whom he is so much indebted. This fear then has as its source, love and gratitude. The mercy, the compassion, the grace of God, are the sources whence it is derived. This is the sentiment which David describes when he cries, " There is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared ;" to this Hosea alluded when he predicted, that on peculiar displays of divine mercy, which were afterwards to be manifested, the pious should " fear the Lord and his goodness." This is indeed the most generous source of holiness and virtue. To abstain from sin that we may obtain the approbation of men, is the attainment of many of the unregencrate ; to do so only from the fear of punishment, is the conduct of a slave who obeys his master only under the lifted rod ; to do so because sin is degrading to our natures, was the motive even of some pagan philosophers; but, not to sin because we love God, and wish not to displease him, is ingenuous, generous, and affectionate. It was this fear, resulting from a display of the divine goodness, which Jacob felt on the consecrated field of Luz. When he had beheld that splendid vision, in which heaven was opened to him ; when he had seen the Lord and his angels ; when God had promised him protection, the choicest temporal mercies, and the richest spiritual blessings, to himself and his posterity, Jacob's soul vibrated between amazement and delight; for the historian immediately adds, " And Jacob was afraid, and said, How dreadful is vol. hi. 47

370 SERMO CI1. this place ! This is none other but the house of God,

and the gate of heaven." It was this that Moses felt, when that illustrious and cheering display of the divine goodness was made unto him; (Ex. xxxiv.) for after the Lord had passed by, and proclaimed his name in accents ever calculated to give confidence and trust in him, " The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin," we are immediately informed that " Moses made haste, and bowed his head to the ground, and worshipped.'' It is this fear, resulting from the divine goodness, which you, believers, have often felt, when, after special manifestations of the divine favour, after a full assurance of the love of God has been shed abroad in your heart, after you have had the Spirit witnessing with you ; you have shuddered at sin ; you have, more than ever, dreaded to displease God; you have trembled at the ingratitude of violating the laws, or opposing the will of your benefactor. With respect to the other kind of fear of apprehension, of which we have spoken, that which is founded only on the dread of future punishments, it is (considered absolutely and in itself) neither morally good nor evil. ot morally good, since we see it every day felt by the most wicked, and since the devils themselves tremble under it. ot morally evil, since it is a sentiment that reason would require ; since God has used the threatenings of this punishment to deter men from sin ; and since our Redeemer has expressly sanctioned it by his command : " Fear not them that can kill the body, and after that have nothing else that they can do : but I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him who, after he


hath killed, hath power to cast both body and soul into hell : Yea, I say unto you, Fear him." It becomes morally good, only when united with filial fear. It is morally evil, when accompanied with love of sin, with distrust, and despair. It then acquires the name of servile fear. My brethren, if you have faithfully attended to the reflections that have been made in this discourse, you may decide whether you have complied with the injunction in the text, and whether, in a holy manner, you fear God. To you who have this disposition, the scripture speaks in the most engaging language : it presents you with promises calculated to support you in every situation, and fill your hearts with joy. o temporal blessing that is really useful, that will promote your best happiness, shall be wanted by you. " O fear the Lord, ye his saints, for there is no want to them that fear him." (Ps. xxxiv. 9, 10.) Are you in a lowly situation in life, and destitute of the outward enjoyments of many of the enemies of God ? Be not disquieted, for " better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great riches, and trouble therewith." (Prov. xv. 16.) Are you encompassed by dangers ? Providence has engaged to defend you, and his angels perpetually minister unto you. " The angel of the Lord encampeth round about those that fear him, and delivereth them." (Ps. xxxiv. 1.) You arc accepted by the Lord ; your persons and your services through the Redeemer: "Of a truth," said Peter, " I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him." (Acts x. 34, 35.) The Lord regards you with tenderness and compassion, and sympathizes with you in all

372 SERMO CH. your trials and distresses: "The eye of the Lord r upon them that fear him. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." (Ps. xxxiii. 18. ciii. 13.) The Saviour shall often come unto you with his light and consolation, with a sense of his pardoning love and mercy : for " unto you that fear my name, says the Lord, shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings." (Mai. iv. 2.) Beyond the grave there is secured to you a felicity worthy of the tenderness of that God whom you fear and love, worthy of that Redeemer in whom you confidently trust : for " surely his salvation is nigh unto them that fear him ;" (Ps. lxxxv. 9.) and " the Lord hearkens and hears, and a book of remembrance is written before him for them that fear the Lord ; and they shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels, and 1 will spare them as a Father spareth his own son that serveth him." (Mai. iii. 16, 17.) These are but a small portion of the promises made to you ; but are not these abundantly sufficient to make you cry out with David, " O how great is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for those that fear thee ?" (Ps. xxxi. 19.) Bless God, who by his Spirit and his grace has implanted this disposition within you ; thank him for those privileges annexed to it; cultivate it by prayer and communion with the Lord; and, fearing God, rise superior to all other fear. And you, whose consciences attest that you are destitute of this sentiment, at last awake to a sense of your condition. Does not God deserve these emotions from you ? Does he not sustain to you all those relations that are calculated to excite a reverential and filial fear ? Would it not make your life

MISCELLA EOUS. 373 more sale and happy, and your death more serene ? Must you not hereafter tremble at his bar, if you now do not fear him ? Oh ! then, no longer trifle with the living God ! earnestly implore from him this blessing, and use those means calculated to procure it in humble dependence upon him.

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