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troubles, that God had laid him in the lowest pit, that he had put his acquaintance far from him, and was casting off his soul, had hid his face from him, and that he was afflicted from his youth up, and ready to die with trouble. He saith, moreover, that the fierce wrath of God went over him, that his terrors had cut him off; yea, that by reason of them he was distracted, and yet, even before he maketh any of these complaints, he takes fast hold of God as his, saying, '' O Lord God of my salvation," Psa. lxxxviii.
The church, in the Lamentations, complains that the Lord had afflicted, her for her transgressions, and that in the day of his fierce anger; also, that he had trodden under foot her mighty men, and that he had called the heathen against her: she says, that he had covered her with a cloud in his anger, that he was an enemy, and that he had hung a chain upon her; she adds, moreover, that he had shut out her prayer, broken her teeth with gravel stones, and covered her with ashes; and, in conclusion, that he had utterly rejected her. But what doth she do under all this trial? doth she give up her faith and hope, and return to that fear that begot the first bondage? No; "The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him;" yea, she adds, "O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life," Lam. iii. 24, 58.
These things show, that God's people, even after they have received the Spirit of adoption, fell foully into sin, and have been bitterly chastised for it; and also, that when the rod was most smart upon them, they made great conscience of not giving way to their first fears wherewith they were made afraid by the Spirit, as it wrought as a Spirit of bondage ; for, indeed, there is no such thing as the coming of the Spirit of bondage to put us in fear the second time, as such, that is, after he is come as the Spirit of adoption to the soul.
I conclude, then, that the fear that is wrought by the Spirit of bondage is good and godly, because the ground for it is sound; and I also conclude, that he comes to the soul as a Spirit of bondage but once, and that once is before he comes as a Spirit of adoption; and if, therefore, the same fear doth again take hold of thy heart, that is, if after thou hast received the Spirit of adoption, thou fearest again the damnation of thy soul, that thou art out of Christ, and under the law, that fear is bad, and of the devil, and ought by no means to be admitted by thee.
Quest. But since it is as you say, how doth the devil, after the Spirit of adoption is come, work the child of God into those fears of being out of Christ, not forgiven, and so an heir of damnation again?
Ans. 1. By giving the lie, and by prevailing with us to give it too, to the work of grace wrought in our hearts, and to the testimony of the Holy Spirit of adoption. Or,
2. By abusing of our ignorance of the everlasting love of God to his in Christ, and the duration of the covenant of grace. Or,
3. By abusing some scripture that seems to look that way, but doth not. Or,
4. By abusing our senses and reason. Or,
5. By strengthening of our unbelief. Or,
6. By overshadowing of our judgment with horrid darkness. Or,
7. By giving us counterfeit representations of God. Or,
8. By stirring up, and setting in a rage our inward corruptions. Or,
9. By pouring into our hearts abundance of horrid blasphemies. Or,
10. By putting wrong constructions on the rod, and chastising hand of God. Or,
if. By charging upon us, that our ill behaviour under the rod, and chastising hand of God, is a sign that we indeed have no grace, but are downright graceless reprobates.
By these things, and others like these, Satan bringeth the child of God not only to the borders, but even into the bowels of the fears of damnation, after he hath received a blessed testimony of eternal life, and that by the holy Spirit of adoption.
Quest. But would you not have the people of God stand in fear of his rod, and be afraid of his judgments?
Ans. Yes; and the more they are rightly afraid of them, the less they will come under them, for it is want of fear that brings us into sin, and it is sin that brings us into these afflictions. But I would not have them fear with the fear of slaves, for that will add no strength against sin; but I would have them fear with the reverential fear of sons, and that is the way to depart from evil.
Quest. How is that?
Ans. Why, having before received the Spirit of adoption, still to believe that he is our Father, and so to fear with the fear of children, and not as slaves fear a tyrant. I would, therefore, have them to look upon his rod, rebukes, chidings, and chastisements, and also upon the wrath wherewith he doth inflict, to be but the dispensations of their Father.
This believed, maintains, or at least helps to maintain, in the heart a son-like bowing under the rod.
It also maintains in the soul a son-like confession of sin, and a justifying of God under all the rebukes that he grieveth us with. It also engageth us to come to him, to claim and lay hold of former mercies, to expect more, and to hope a good end shall be made of all God's present dispensations towards us.
Now, God would have us thus fear his rod, because he is resolved to chastise us therewith, if so be we sin against him, as I have already shown; for although God's bowels turn within him, even while he is threatening his people, yet if we sin, he will lay on the rod so hard, as to make us cry," Woe unto us, that we have sinned!" Lam. v. 16; and, therefore, as I said, we should be afraid of his judgments, yet only as afore is provided, as of the rod, wrath, and judgment of a Father.
Quest. But have we any other considerations to move us to fear God with childlike fear? I will, in this place, give you five. Ans. 1. Consider, that God thinks meet to have it so; and he is wiser in heart than thou; he knows best how to secure his people from sin, and to that end hath given them a law and commandments to read, that they may learn to fear him as a Father.
Ans. 2. Consider, he is mighty in power; if he touch but with a fatherly touch, man nor angel cannot bear it; yea, Christ makes use of that argument, he hath power to cast into hell; "Yea, I say unto you, Fear him," Luke xii. 5.
Ans. 3. Consider, that he is everywhere; thou canst not be out of his sight or presence, nor out of the reach of his hand. "Fear ye not me? saith the Lord," Jer. v. 22. "Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord," Jer. xxiii. 24.
Ans. 4. Consider, that he is holy, and cannot look wi:h liking upon the sins of his own people. Therefore, said Peter," as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear," 1 Pet. i. 14—17.
Ans. 5. Consider, that he is good, and has been good to thee, good in that he hath singled thee out from others, and saved thee from their death and hell, though thou perhaps was worse in thy life than those that he left when he laid hold on thee. Oh, how this should engage thy heart to fear the Lord all the days of thy life! They "shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days," Hos. iii. 5.
And now, for the present, I have done with that fear, I mean as to its first workings, namely, to put us in fear of damnation.