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yet do what he could, the next time his fear had any act in it, it would return again to its object. And so it is with godly fear, it will make a man speak of, and think upon the name of God reverentially. Yea, and exercise himself in the holy thoughts of him in such sort, that his soul shall be sanctified and seasoned with such meditations.
Indeed, holy thoughts of God, such as you see this fear doth exercise the heart withal, prepare the heart to and for God. This fear, therefore, is that David prayed for, for the people, when he said, "O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee," 1 Chron. xxix. 18.
4. There flows from this fear of God, great reverence of his majesty, in and under the use and enjoyment of God's holy ordinances. His ordinances are his courts and palaces, his walks and places, where he giveth his presence to those that wait upon him in them, in the fear of his name. And this is the meaning of the apostle; "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied," Acts ix. 31.
"And walking,"—that word intends their use of the ordinances of God. "Walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless," Luke i. 6; this, in Old Testament language, is called treading God's courts, and walking in his paths. This, saith the text, they did here " in the fear of the Lord;" that is, in a great reverence of that God whose ordinances they were. "Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord," Levit. xix. 30.
It is one thing to be conversant in God's ordinances, and another to be conversant in them with a due reverence of the majesty and name of that God whose ordinances they are; it is common for men to do the first, but none can do the last without this fear. "In thy fear," said David, " will I worship," Psa. v. 7. It is this fear of God, therefore, from whence doth flow that great reverence that his saints have in them, of his majesty in and under the use and enjoyment of God's holy ordinances; and consequently, that makes our service in the performance of them acceptable to God through Christ.
For God expects that we serve him with fear and trembling, and it is odious among men for a man, in the presence or about the service of his prince, to behave himself lightly, and without due reverence of that majesty, in whose presence and about whose business he is: and if so, how can their service to God have anything like acceptance from the hand of God, that is done, not in, but without the fear of God! This service must needs be an abomination to him, and these servers must come off with rebuke.
5. There flows from this godly fear of God selfdenial; that is, an holy abstaining from those things that are either unlawful or inexpedient; according to that text of Nehemiah; "The former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God," Neh. v. 15. Here now was self-denial, he would not do as they did that went before him, neither himself, nor should his servants; but what was it that put him upon these acts of selfdenial? The answer is, the fear of God: "But so did not I, because of the fear of God."
Now, whether by the fear of God, in this place, be meant his word, or the grace of fear in his heart, may perhaps be a scruple to some, but in my judgment the text must have respect to the latter, namely, to the grace of fear, for without that be indeed in the heart, the word will not produce that good self-denial in us, of which here you find this good man lived in the daily exercise.
The fear of God, therefore, was the cause of his self-denial, was this grace of fear in his heart. This made him to be, as was said before, tender of the honour of God, and of the salvation of his brother: yea, so tender, that rather than he would give an occasion to the weak to stumble, or be offended, he would even deny himself of that, which others never hesitated to do. Paul, also, through the sanctifying operations of this fear of God in his heart, did deny himself even of lawful things, for the profit of his brother. "I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend," 1 Cor. viii. 13; that is, if his eating of it would make his brother to offend.
Men that have not this fear of God in them, will not, cannot deny themselves, (of love to God, and the good of the weak, who are subject to stumble at indifferent things;) but where this grace of fear is, there follows self-denial; there men are tender of offending, and count that it far better becomes their profession to be of a self-denying, condescending conversation and temper, than to stand sturdily to their own liberty in things inexpedient, whoever is offended thereat.
This grace of fear, therefore, is a very excellent thing, because it yieldeth such excellent fruit as this. For this self-denial, of how little esteem soever it be with some, yet the want of it, if the words of Christ be true, as they are, takes quite away, from even a professor, the very name of a disciple, Matt. x. 37, 38; Luke xiv. 27.
They, says Nehemiah, lorded it over the brethren, but so did not I. They took bread and wine, and forty shekels of silver of them, but so did not I: yea, even their servants bare rule over the people, but so did not I, because of the fear of God, Neh. v. 15.
6. There flows from this godly fear of God, "singleness of heart," Col. iii. 22. Singleness of heart both to God and man; singleness of heart, that is it which, in another place, is called sincerity, and godly simplicity; and it is this, when a man doth a thing simply for the sake of him, or of the law, that commands it, without respect to this by-end, or that desire of praise or of vain-glory from others. I say, when our obedience to God is done by us simply, or alone for God's sake, for his word's sake, without any regard to this or that by-end or reserve, "not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but with singleness of heart fearing God." A man is more subject to nothing than to swerve from singleness of heart in his service to God, and obedience to his will.
How doth the Lord charge the children of Israel, and all their obedience, and that for seventy years together, with the want of singleness of heart towards him !" When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves ?" Zech. vii. 5, 6.
They wanted this singleness of heart in their fasting and in their eating, in their mourning and in their drinking; they had double hearts in what they did. They did not as the apostle bids, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God," 1 Cor. x. 31. And the reason of their want of this thing was, they wanted this fear of God; for that, as the apostle here saith, effecteth singleness of heart to God, and makes a man, as John said of Gaius, do faithfully whatever he doth, 3 John 5. And the reason is, as hath been already urged, for that grace of fear of God retaineth, and keepeth upon the heart, a reverential and awful sense of the dread majesty and all-seeing eye of God; also a due consideration of the day of account before him: it likewise maketh his service sweet and pleasing, and fortifies the soul against all discouragements. By this means, I say, the soul in its service to God or man, is not so soon captivated, as where there is not this fear; but through and by it its service is accepted, being single, sincere, simple, and faithful; when others, with what they do, are cast into hell for their hypocrisy, for they mix not what they do with godly fear.
Singleness of heart in the service of God is of such absolute necessity, that without it, as I have hinted, nothing can be accepted, because where that is wanting, there wanteth love to God, and to that which is true holiness indeed. It was this singleness of heart that made Nathanael so honourable in the eyes of Jesus Christ. "Behold," said he, " an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile," John i. 47.