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hide it, and plead for it, and rejoice to do it; these cannot have in them the fear of the Lord, for that is to hate it, and to make men depart from it. Where the fear of God and sin are, it will be with the soul as it was with Israel, when Amri and Tihni strove to reign among them both at once; one of them must be put to death; they cannot live together: sin must down, for the fear of the Lord begetteth in the soul a hatred against it, an abhorrence of it; therefore sin must die, that is, as to the affections and lusts of it; for, as Solomon says in another case, "Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out," Prov. xxvi. 20. So we may say, where there is a hatred of sin, and where men depart from it, there it loseth much of its power, waxeth feeble and decayeth. Therefore, Solomon saith again, " Fear the Lord, and depart from evil," Prov. iii. 1; as if he had said, Fear the Lord, and it will follow, that you shall depart from evil: departing from evil, is a natural consequence, a proper effect of the fear of the Lord.
"By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil;" that is, in their judgment, will, mind, and affections; not, that by the fear of the Lord, sin is annihilated, or has lost its being in the soul; there still will be those Canaanites, but they are hated, loathed, abominated, fought against, prayed against, watched against, strove against, and mortified in the soul.
This fear is called a fountain of life. "The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death," Prov. xiv. 27.
It is a fountain, or spring, which so continually supplies the soul with variety of considerations of sin, of God, of death, and life eternal, as to keep the soul in continual exercise of virtue, and in holy contemplation. It is a fountain of life; every operation thereof, every act and exercise thereof, hath a true and natural tendency to spiritual and eternal felicity. Wherefore the wise man saith, in another place, "The fear of the Lord tendeth to life; and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil," Prov. xix. 23. It tendeth to life even as of nature; everything hath a tendency to that which is most natural to itself, the fire to burn, the water to wet, the stone to fall, the sun to shine, and sin to defile. Thus I say, the fear of the Lord tendeth to life; the nature of it is to put the soul upon fearing of God, of closing with Christ, and of walking humbly before him.
It is " a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death." What are the snares of death but sin, the wiles of the devil, etc. From which the fear of God hath a natural tendency to deliver thee, and to keep thee in the way that tendeth to life.
This fear of the Lord is called "the instruction of wisdom," Prov. xv. 33. You heard before that it is the beginning of wisdom; but here you find it called the instruction of wisdom: for indeed it is not only that which makes a man begin to be wise, but to improve, and make advantage of all those helps and means to life, which God hath afforded to that end; that is, both to his own, and his neighbours' salvation also. It is the instruction of wisdom; it will make a man capable to use all his natural parts, all his natural wisdom to God's glory, and his own good. There lieth, even in many natural things, that, into which if we were instructed, would yield us a great deal of help to the understanding of spiritual matters; for in wisdom has God made all the world; nor is there anything that God has made, whether in heaven above, or on earth beneath, but there is couched some spiritual mystery in it. The which men think of no more than they do the ground they tread on, or than the stones that are under their feet, and all because they have not this fear of the Lord, for had they that, it would teach them to think, even from that knowledge of God, that hath by the fear of him been put into their hearts, that he being so great and so good, there must needs be abundance of wisdom in the things he hath made: that fear would also endeavour to find out what that wisdom is, yea, and give to the soul the instruction of it.
In that it is called the instruction of wisdom, it intimates to us, that its tendency is to keep all even, and in good order in the soul. When Job perceived that his friends did not deal with him in an even spirit and orderly manner, he said that they forsook the fear of the Almighty, Job vi. 14. For, this fear keeps a man, even in his words and judgment of things. It may be compared to the ballast of the ship, and to the poise of the balance of the scales, it keeps all even, and also makes us steer our course right with respect to the things that pertain to God and man.
II. I come now to the next thing, namely, to show you what this fear of God flows from.
This fear, this grace of fear, this son-like fear of God, flows from the distinguishing love of God to his elect. "I will be their God," saith he, " and I will put my fear in their hearts." None other obtain it but those that are inclosed and bound up in that bundle. Therefore, in the same place, they are said to be those that are wrapped up in the eternal or everlasting covenant of God, and so designed to be the people that should be blessed with this fear. "I will make an everlasting covenant with them," saith God, "that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me," Jer. xxxii. 40. This covenant declares unto men that God hath, in his heart, distinguishing love for some of the children of men; for he saith he will be their God, that he will not leave them, nor yet suffer them to depart finally from him. Into these men's hearts he doth put his fear, this blessed grace, and this rare and effectual sign of his love, and of their eternal salvation.
This fear flows from a new heart. This fear is not in men by nature: the fear of devils they may have, as also an ungodly fear of God; but this fear is not in any, but where there dwelleth a new heart, which is another fruit and effect of this everlasting covenant, and of this distinguishing love of God. "A new heart also will I give you," Ezek. xxxvi. 26. A new heart, what is that? why, the prophet Jeremiah saith, in another place, "A heart to fear me," Jer. xxxii. 39, a circumcised one, a sanctified one.
So then, until a man receive a heart from God, a heart from heaven, a new heart, he has not this fear of God in him. Men do not " put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved," Matt. ix. 17.
This fear of God must not be, cannot be found in old hearts: old hearts are not bottles out of which this fear of God proceeds; but it is from a honest and good heart, from a new one, from such an one that is also an effect of the everlasting covenant, and love of God to men.
"I will give them a heart to fear me;" there must in all actions be heart, and without heart no action is good; nor can there be faith, love, or fear, from every kind of heart; these must flow from such an one, whose nature is to produce and bring forth such fruit; "For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes," Luke vi. 44; so from a corrupt heart there cannot proceed such fruit as the fear of God, as to believe in God, and love God.
The heart naturally is " deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," how then should there flow from such a one the fear of God? It cannot be. He therefore that hath not received, at the hands of God, a new heart, cannot fear the Lord.
This fear of God flows from an impression, a sound impression that the word of God maketh on our souls; for without an impress of the word, there is no fear of God. Hence it is said, that God gave to Israel good laws, statutes, and judgments, that they might learn them, and in learning them, learn to fear the Lord .their God, Deut. iv. 8. Therefore saith God, in another place, " Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God," Deut. xxxi. 12.
For as a man drinketh good doctrine into his soul, so he feareth God. . If he drinks it in much, he feareth him greatly; if he drinks it in but little, he feareth him but little; if he drinks it not in at all, he feareth him not at all.
This, therefore, teacheth us how to judge who feareth the Lord; they are those that learn, and that stand in awe of the word: those fear God