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of the transgression of those that had been carried away," Ezra ix. 4.
Those also that tremble at the word are best able to give counsel in the matters of God, for their judgment best suiteth with his mind and will. "Now therefore," said Shechaniah, " let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the [strange] wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law," Ezra x. 3.
Now, something of the dread and terror of the word lieth in these things.
1. As I have already hinted from the Author of them; they are the words of God. Therefore you have Moses and the prophets, when they come to deliver their message to the people, still saying, Hear the word of the Lord, Thus saith the Lord, and the like. So when Ezekiel was sent to the house of Israel, in their state of religion, he was bid to say unto them, " Thus saith the Lord God," Ezek. ii. 4; iii.ll.
This is the honour and majesty, then, that God hath put upon his written word; and thus he hath done, that we might make them the rule and directory of our fear, and that we might stand in awe of, and tremble at them. When Habakkuk heard the word of the Lord, his belly trembled, and rottenness entered into his bones. "I trembled in myself," said he, " that I might rest in the day of trouble," Hab. iii. 16. The word of a king is as the roaring of a lion; where the word of a king is, there is power, Eccl. viii. 4; what is it, then, when God, the great God, shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem, whose voice shakes not only wirth. but also heaven? How doth holy David set it forth; "The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty !" Psa. xxix. 4.
2. It is a word that is fearful, and may well be called the fear of the Lord, because of the subject matter of it; to wit, the state of sinners in another world; for that is it unto which the whole Bible bendeth itself, either more immediately, or more mediately; all its doctrines, counsels, encouragements, threatenings, and judgments, have a look one way or other, upon us with respect to the next world, which will be our last state, because it will be to us an eternal state. This word, this law, these judgments, are they that we shall be disposed of by. "The word that I have spoken," said Christ, " the same shall judge him in the last day," John xii. 48. Now, if we consider that our next state must be eternal, either eternal glory, or eternal fire, and that this eternal glory, or this eternal fire must be our portion according as the words of God, revealed in the Holy Scriptures, shall determine; who will not but conclude that, therefore, the words of God are those at which we should tremble, and those by which we should have our fear of God guided and directed, for by them we are taught how to please him in every thing.
3. It is to be called a fearful word, because of the truth and faithfulness of it. "The Scripture cannot be broken," John x. 35. Hence it is called "the Scripture of truth," Dan. x. 21; "the true sayings of God," Rev. xix. 9; and also the fear of the Lord, for that every jot and tittle thereof is for ever settled in heaven, and stands more stedfast than doth the world. "Heaven and earth," said Christ, "shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away," Matt. xxiv. 35. Those therefore that are favoured by the word of God, are favoured indeed, and that with the favour that no man can turn away; but those that by the word of the Scriptures are condemned, those can no man justify and set quit in the sight of God. Therefore what is bound by the text, is bound, and what is released by the text, is released; also the bond and release are unalterable. This therefore calleth upon God's people to stand more in fear of the word of God, than of all the terrors of the world.
There wanteth even in the hearts of God's people a greater reverence of the word of God, than to this day appears amongst us; and this let me say, that want of reverence of the word is the ground of all the disorders that are in the heart, life, conversation, and in Christian communion. Besides, the want of reverence of the word layeth men open to the fearful displeasure of God. "Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded," Prov. xiii. 13.
All transgression beginneth at wandering from the word of God; but, on the other side, David saith, " Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer," Psa. xvii. 4. Therefore Solomon saith, "My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyesi keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh," Prov. iv. 20—22.
Now, if indeed thou wouldst reverence the word of the Lord, and make it thy rule and directory in all things, believe that the word is the fear of the Lord; the word that standeth fast for ever: without and against which God will do nothing either in saving or condemning the souls of sinners.
But to conclude this, know, that those that have not due regard to the word of the Lord, and that make it not their dread and their fear, (but the rule of their life is the lusts of their flesh, and desire of their eyes, and the pride of life,) are sorely rebuked by this doctrine, and are counted the fools of the world; for " Lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them ?" Jer. viii. 9. That there are such people is evident, not only by their irregular lives, but by the manifest testimony of the word. "As for the word," said they to Jeremiah, "that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee. But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth out of our own mouth," Jer. xliv. 16, 17.
Was this only the temper of wicked men then? is not the same spirit of rebellion amongst us in our days? Doubtless there is, for there is no new thing: "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun," Eccles. i. 9.
Therefore as it was then, so it is with many in this day. As for the word of the Lord, it is nothing at all to them; their lusts, and whatever proceedeth out of their own mouths, that they will do, that they will follow. Now, such will certainly perish in their own rebellion; for this is as the sin of witchcraft; it was the sin of Korah and his company, and that which brought upon them such heavy judgments; yea, and they are made a sign that thou shouldst not do as they, for they perished, because they rejected the word, the fear of the Lord, from among the congregation of the Lord, and they became a sign. The word which thou despisest still abideth to denounce its woe and judgment upon thee; and unless God will save thee with the breath of his word, thou canst never see his face with comfort.
Are the words of God called by the name of the fear of the Lord? are they so dreadful in their receipt and sentence? then this rebukes those that esteem the words and things of men more than the words of God, as those do who are drawn from their respect of, and obedience to, the word of God, by the pleasures or threats of men.
Some there be who verily will acknowledge the authority of the word, yet will not stoop their souls thereto: such, whatever they think of themselves, are judged by Christ to be ashamed of the word; wherefore their state is damnable as the other. "Whosoever," saith he, " shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels," Mark viii. 38.
3. And if these things be so, what will become of those that mock at, and professedly contemn, the words of God, making them as a thing ridiculous, and not to be regarded? Shall they prosper that do such things? from the premises it is concluded that their judgment now of a long time slumbereth not, and when it comes it will devour them without remedy. See 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, 16.
If God, I say, hath put that reverence upon his word, as to call it, the fear of the Lord, what will become of those that do what they can to overthrow