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will put men upon adding to the revealed will of God, their own inventions, and their own performances of them, as a means to pacify the anger of God. For the truth is, where this ungodly fear reigneth, there is no end of law and duty. When those people that you read of in 2 Kings xvii. 26, were destroyed by the lions, because they had set up idolatry in the land of Israel, they sent for, a priest from Babylon that might teach them the manner of the God of the land: but, behold, when they knew it, being taught it by the priest, yet their fear would not suffer them to be content with that worship only. "They feared the Lord, and served their own gods," ver. 33. And, again, " So these nations feared the Lord, and served their graven images," ver. 41. It was this fear also that put the Pharisees upon inventing so many traditions as the washing of cups, pots, brazen vessels and tables, with abundance of such other like things, Mark vii. 4. None knows the many dangers that an ungodly fear of God will drive a man into. How has it racked and tortured the papists for hundreds of years together! For what else is the cause but this ungodly fear, at least in the most simple and harmless of them, of their penances, as creeping to the cross, going barefoot on pilgrimage, whipping themselves, wearing of sackcloth, saying so many paternosters, so many ave-marias, making so many confessions to the priest, giving so much money for pardons, and abundance of other the like, but this ungodly fear of God? For, could they be brought to believe this doctrine, that Christ "was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification," Rom. iv. 25, and to apply it by faith with godly boldness to their own souls, this fear would vanish, and so consequently all those things with which they so needlessly and improfitably afflict themselves, are very offensive to God, and grieve his people.
Therefore, gentle reader, although my text doth indeed bid that thou shouldst fear God; yet it includeth not, nor accepteth of any fear; no, not of any fear of God. For there is, as you see, a fear of God that is ungodly, and that is to be shunned as other sins. Wherefore, thy wisdom and thy care should be, to see and prove thy fear to be godly, which shall be the next thing that I shall take in hand.
3. The third thing that I am to speak to is, that there is a fear of God in the hearts of some men that is good and godly, but yet doth not for ever abide so. Or you may take it thus:—there is a fear of God, that is godly but for a time.
In my speaking to, and opening of this to you, I shall observe this method:
(1.) I shall show you what this fear is
(2.) I shall show you by whom, or by what, this fear is wrought in the heart.
(3.) I shall show you what this fear doth in the soul.
(1.) For the first, this fear is an effect of sound awakenings by the word of wrath, which begetteth in the soul a sense of its right to eternal damnation; for this fear is not in every sinner, He that is blinded by the devil, and that is not able to see that his state is damnable, hath not this fear in his heart; but he that is under the powerful workings of the word of wrath, as God's elect are at first conversion, he hath this godly fear in his heart; that is, he fears that that damnation will come upon him, which by the justice of God is due unto him, because he has broken his holy law. This is the fear that made the three thousand cry out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Acts ii. 37 ; and that made the jailor cry out, and that with great trembling of soul, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Acts xvi. 30.
The method of God is to kill, and then make alive; to smite, and then heal. When the commandment came to Paul, sin revived, and he died; and that law which was ordained to life, he found to be unto death, Rom. vii. 9,10. That is, it passed a sentence of death upon him for his sins, and slew his conscience with that sentence. Therefore from that time that he heard that word, Why dost thou persecute me? which is all one, as if he had said, Why dost thou commit murder? he lay under the sentence of condemnation by the law, and under this fear of that sentence in his conscience. He lay, I say, under it, until Ananias came to him to comfort him, and to preach unto him the forgiveness of sins, Acts ix. 17.
The fear, therefore, that now I call godly, is that fear which is properly called the fear of eternal damnation for sin; and this fear at first awakening, is good and godly, because it ariseth in the soul from a true sense of its very state. Its state by nature is damnable, because it is sinful, and because he is not one that as yet believeth in Christ for remission of sins. "He that believeth not shall be damned," Mark xvi. 16. "He that believeth not is condemned already," and "the wrath of God abideth on him," John iii. 18, 36. The which, when the sinner at first begins to see, he justly fears it; I say, he fears it justly, and therefore godly, because
by this fear he subscribes to the sentence that is gone out against him for sin.
(2.) We now inquire, By whom, or by what, is this fear wrought in the heart?
To this I shall answer in brief. It is wrought in the heart by the Spirit of God, working there at first as a Spirit of bondage, on purpose to put us in fear. This Paul teacheth in Rom. viii. 15, saying, "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear." He doth not say, Ye have not received the Spirit of bondage; for that they had received, and that to put them in fear, which was at first conversion, as by the instances made mention of before is manifest: all that he says is, that they had not received it again; that is, after the Spirit, as a Spirit of adoption is come; for then, as a spirit of bondage it cometh no more.
It is then the Spirit of God, even the Holy Ghost, that convinceth us of sin, and so of our damnable state, because of sin, John xvi. 8, 9. For it cannot be that the Spirit of God should convince us of sin, but it must also show us our state to be damnable because of it; especially if it so convinceth us, before we believe, and that is the intent of our Lord in that place, "of sin," (and so of their damnable state by sin,) "because they believe not on me." Therefore, the Spirit of God, when he worketh in the heart, as a Spirit of bondage, he doth it by working in us by the law; "for by the law is the knowledge of sin," Rom. iii. 20. And he, in this his working, is properly called a Spirit of bondage.
[1.] Because, by the law he shows us, that indeed we are in bondage to the law, the devil, death, and damnation; for this is our proper state by nature, though we see it not until the Spirit of God shall come to reveal this our state of bondage unto our own senses by revealing to us our sins by the law.
[2.] He is called, in this his working, the Spirit of bondage, because he here also holds us, to wit, in this sight and sense of our bondage-state, so long as is meet we should be so held, which to some of the saints is a longer, and to some a shorter time. Paul was held in it three days and three nights, but the jailor and the three thousand, so far as can be gathered, not above an hour; but some in these later times are so held for days and months, if not years.
But I say, let the time be longer or shorter, it is the Spirit of God that holdeth him under this yoke; and it is good that a man should be his time held under it; as is that saying of the Lamentations: "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth," Lam. hi. 27; that is, at his first awakening. So long as seems good to this Holy Spirit to work in this manner by the law.
Now, as I said, the sinner at first is by the Spirit of God held in this bondage; that is, hath such a discovery of his sin, and of his damnation for sin, made to him, and also is held so fast under the sense thereof, that it is not in the power of any man, nor yet of the very angels in heaven, to release him, or set him free, until the Holy Spirit changeth his ministration, and comes in the sweet and peaceable tidings of salvation by Christ in the gospel, to, his poor, dejected, and afflicted conscience.
(3.) I now come to show you what this fear does in the soul.
Now, although this godly fear is not to last always with us, yet it greatly differs from that which is wholly ungodly of itself, both because of the author,