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2. This Legal Fear is slavish, and engenders unto bondage. There is a bondage, under the reigning power of sin; and
there is a bondage, under the terrifying power of sin. The former makes a man a slave unto the Devil, and the latter makes a man a slave unto God. And such slaves are all convinced sinners, that have not yet arrived to the free and filial Spirit of Adoption; but are kept under bondage under the wrath of God, and manacled in the fetters of their own fears. So saith the Apostle: Heb, ii. 15. to deliver them, who, through fear of death, and of hell that follows after it, were all their life-time subject to bondage.
3. This Slavish Fear is wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God, though it be slavish.
For it is his office, to convince, as well as to comfort; and to cast down by the terrors of the Law, as well as to raise up by the promises of the Gospel: John xvi. 8. He shall convince the world of sin; and therefore it is said in this place, Rom. viii. 15. We have not received the Spirit of Bondage again to fear; implying, that those terrors, that seize upon the conscience, are the work of the Holy Ghost: we bring ourselves into bondage, under sin; and he brings us into bondage, under fear. If therefore, at any time, thou, who art a secure sinner, art suddenly surprized with fearful and trembling thoughts concerning thy present state of sin and thy future state of wrath, beware thou listen not to any that would persuade thee it is nothing but a fit of melancholy, or a temptation of Satan to drive thee to despair; but know assuredly, that thy conscience is now under the hand of the Holy Ghost himself: he raiseth those tempests of fear in thee; and, as usually it is fatal to divert and hush them, so is it no less than ignorant blasphemy, to impute his works to melancholy, or to the temptations of Satan.
4. When the soul is prepared for the work of grace by the work of conviction, when it is prepared for comfort by the work of humiliation, the same Spirit, that was before a Spirit of Bondage, becomes now a Spirit of Adoption.
That is, the Holy Ghost persuades,and assures us of the love and favour of God; and enables us, through divine light beaming in upon our consciences, to behold him as a gracious and a reconciled Father, whom before we trembled at as a stern and terrible Judge. The same wind, that, in a raging storm, tosseth the sea to and fro in restless heaps, in a calm doth only gently move and fan it with pleasing purles. So is it here. That Spirit of God, that, in conviction, raiseth a tempest in the conscience, afterwards breathes forth a sweet calm of peace and comfort upon it: the same Spirit, that, before, was a Spirit of Bondage, when the soul is sufficiently thereby prepared for grace, becomes a Spirit of Adoption. This is that Spirit of Adoption, that is here spoken of: and it is called so, because it witnesseth with our spirits, that we are the children of God by adoption. God hath but one Son by eternal generation, and that is Jesus Christ; called, therefore, the only-begotten of the Father, John i. 14. He hath many sons by creation; even all mankind: so Adam is called the son of God: Luke iii. 38. He hath many sons also by adoption; even all, that are effectually called according to the purpose of his grace; all, that are sanctified, who are of strangers made heirs of God, and co-heirs with Jesus Christ himself, who is the natural son of God; as it is Rom. viii. 17. Now because it is the work of the Holy Ghost to testify to Us this our great privilege, that we are enrolled in the family of heaven and become the children of God, therefore he is called the Spirit of Adoption; that is, the Spirit, that witnesseth to us our adoption.
5. To whom the Spirit hath once been a Spirit of Adoption, it never more becomes to them a Spirit of Bondage and Fear.
That is, it never again proclaims war, after it hath spoken peace: it never represents God as an enraged enemy, after it hath represented him as a Reconciled Father. It is true, the Spirit of God always keeps up his convincing office in the soul of the most assured saint: it convinceth him of sin, and of wrath due to him for sin. There is a twofold conviction: there is a conviction of the evil of particular actions, and there is a conviction of the evil of our state and condition: now, though, upon particular miscarriages of God's children, the Holy Ghost secretly smiteth their consciences, shewing them the guilt and evil of their sins, thereby bringing them to repentance and a godly sorrow ; yet the Holy Ghost never again testifieth to them, that they are in a graceless, unregenerate, and sinful estate and condition, and in a state of wrath and condemnation: it brings them to a deep humiliation, by convincing them of the evil of their actions; but it never brings them into legal terrors, by convincing them of a sinful state. Neither, indeed, can it be so: for the Spirit of God is a Spirit of Truth; and, to witness that we are yet children of wrath, who are indeed the adopted children of God, this were a false testimony, and therefore utterly abhorred by the Spirit of God, who is a Spirit of Truth. Doth the same fountain send forth sweet water and bitter? Doth there proceed from one and the same mouth, blessings and curses? Certainly, the same Spirit, that hath once pronounced us to be in the love and favour of God, never after pronounceth us to be cursed, and under the wrath of God.
But you will say, " Have not the best of God's children sometimes concluded themselves to be reprobated and cast away? Have they not lain under sad and fearful apprehensions of God's wrath? Have not some of them, who formerly walked in the light of God's countenance and flourished in their assurance, yet afterwards been so dejected, that they would not entertain any comfort, or hopes of mercy and salvation?"
To this I answer: It is true, it may indeed so happen, that those saints, whose joys and comforts are at one time fresh and verdant, at another time wither and drop off; so that they look upon themselves as rotten trees, destinated to make fuel for hell. Whence proceeds this? It is not from the Spirit of God: but, as carnal men are apt to mistake the first work of conviction for melancholy or for temptation, so this really proceeds from one of these two causes. When the children of God, after full assurance, come again not only to entertain doubts of their condition, but also to despair of themselves, looking on themselves as persons that God hath singled out to destruction; this proceeds not from the Holy Ghost, but from melancholy or temptation. Sometimes, natural Melancholy obstructs the sense of divine comfort: as it is in clear water, when it is still and transparent the sun shines to the very bottom, but if you stir the mud, presently it grows so thick that no light can pierce into it; so is it with the children of God, though their apprehensions of God's love be as clear and transparent sometimes as the very air that the angels and glorified saints breathe in, in heaven, yet, if once the muddy humour of melancholy stirs, they become dark, so that no light or ray of comfort can break in to the deserted soul. And then, sometimes, the Devil causeth these tragedies by his Temptations, that so, if it were possible, he might drive them to despair: he hates their graces, he envies their comforts; and therefore he would persuade them that all their former joys were but delusions, proud dreams and presumptuous fancies, and that they are still in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity; and, by such suggestions as these, when he cannot hinder the work of grace, he strives what he can to hinder the sense of comfort. If, therefore, those, that have once rejoiced under the comfortable persuasions of God's love to them, the Holy Ghost witnessing himself to them to be a Spirit of Adoption by being in them a Spirit of Sanctification, now find themselves under the bondage of legal fears and terrors and slavish dejections, looking upon themselves as under the revenging wrath of God and as persons devoted to destruction; let them know, that suGh fears proceed not from the convictions of the Spirit of God, who hath been a Spirit of Adoption, but from the delusions of Satan: for those, that once receive the Spirit of Adoption, never receive the Spirit of Bondage again to fear; that is, to fear with a slavish, tormenting fear.
6. A Reverential, Filial Fear of God, may and ought to possess our souls, while the Spirit of God, who is a Spirit of Adoption, is, by the clearest evidences, actually witnessing our son-ship to us.
Let men boast what they will of their high gospel-attainments, yet certainly they have not the genuine disposition of God's children, whose love to him is not mingled with fear, and whose fear of him is not increased by their love. Love! it is the gage and measure of all our affections: and, according to the proportion of our love to God, such will be our fear; that is, the more we love God, the more we shall fear his displeasure and the loss of his favour. It is in vain for us to pretend love to God as our Father, unless we fear him also as our Lord and Master. Christ was his only-begotten Son, and certainly had much more clear assurance of the love and favour of God, than any adopted sons can possibly have; yet the Scripture ascribes a holy, awful, reverential fear of God even unto him: Heb.v*7.
When he had offered up prayers with strong cries and tears
and was heard in that he feared: it may be rendered, he was heard because of his godly fear. So, in Isa. xi. 2. The Spirit of
the Lord shall rest upon him the spirit of knowledge and of the
fear of the Lord; speaking of Christ. If therefore he feared God, who was himself to be feared as God, equal to him and his Eternal Son, how much more ought we to fear the Great God, who are, as it were, but upstarts in the family of heaven! we, wretched and forlorn outcasts, that were but lately raked out of the dunghill; and, by mere pity, taken up into the bosom of God, and nurtured as his children!
And, thus, you see that the fear of God is not in the least contrary to the free Spirit of Adoption.
iv. An Awful Fear of God is No Impediment To A Holy ReJoicing.
Indeed slavish fear damps all true joy. Those, that fear and expect the revengings of God, cannot have any true joy. They may have a kind of mad jollity, that spends itself in noise and tumults: they may roar out songs of mirth, only to drown the loud roarings of their own consciences. Such as these are like your new liquor, that works over into foam and froth, when the bottom is thick and troubled: so, in this false joy, the countenance runs over with laughter, when yet the heart is brimful of the wrath of God. Of such the Wise Man speaks, Prov. xiy. 13. Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful.
But a Filial Fear of God puts no check at all upon our holy rejoicing in him. Spiritual joy is not of that flashy nature; but it is a sober and a severe grace: it is joy, mixed with fear. And, because of the mixture of these two together, the fear of God with joy in the Lord, therefore we find these two are promiscuously ascribed each to other. So, in Isa. lx. 5. Their hearts shall fear and be enlarged: you know it is the property of joy to extend and enlarge the heart: fear contracts and draws it together; but, here, fear is said to dilate the heart, to denote to us, that a Christian's fear is always conjoined and mingled together with his joy. And so, on the other hand, it is said, Ps.ii. 11. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling: fear, with trembling, is more proper and natural; but, because of the mixture of these two graces in the heart of a Christian, therefore the Holy Ghost thus expresseth it, Rejoice with trembling, for great joys, as well as great fears, cause & kind of trembling and fluttering in the heart: as it was with the two women, whom the angels assured of Christ's resurrection, Matt, xxviii. 8. They departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; so is it with those Christians, who, by the eye of faith looking upon the death and into the sepulchre of Jesus Christ, are assured that he is risen for their justification, cannot but have their hearts filled with a quaking and a fearful joy. Even a Christian's strong praises are breathed out with a shaking and a trembling voice.
So that godly fear is no impediment to a holy and a severe .rejoicing in God as our Saviour.