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THE PRIVILEGE AND PORTION OF THOSE WHO FEAR GOD.
PREACHED IN THE NORTH STRAND EPISCOPAL CHAPEL, DUBLIN,
ON SUNDAY, 24TH NOVEMBER, 1839,
BY THE REV. DENIS BROWNE, A.M.
ECCLESIASTES Viii. 12.
"Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him."
THIS is the expression of one who was taught by God's Spirit, and had much experience of the ways of God in his dealings by men. The wise man, when meditating on God's providences, seems through faith to have had his mind clearly made up on a subject which has proved a stumbling block to many, grieving the minds of God's people, and encouraging perhaps, the ungodly in their ways of worldliness and sin,-viz, the prosperity of the people of the world, and the difficulties and trials in this life to which the most devoted of the servants of God are frequently exposed-sense, in the case of Solomon-sin, as with David in Psalm 73 stumbled at this difficulty; but in the end, faith, imparted and strengthened by the Holy Ghost, prevailed as it did with David, and enabled him to make this statement upon the subject, not only as expressive of his own convictions and feelings, but for the instruction and consolation of the Church of God in every age" though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him."
direct your attention to that part of the verse before us, which speaks of God's dealings by the unconverted people of the world, in his forbearance towards them, and his long-suffering mercy extended to them, but rather to confine our observations for this day to the words contained in the text itself, in which we have this position laid down by the Spirit of God, that whatever the Lord's outward providential dispensations by his own people may be, yet surely it shall be well with them"-" Surely" (it is here said) "it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him."
It is not my purpose, at present, to
In speaking on this, then, we would inquire,
I. What the distinguishing character is of those concerning whom this statement is made-they are those who are described as a people "who fear God, who fear before him."
You will observe in reading the Scriptures how frequently this point is spoken of as distinguishing the child and servant of the Lord from every other man, viz, that he fears God-for instance, Rom. iii. 18, it is stated concerning the ungodly, "there is no fear of God before their eyes," in Psalm cx. 10, it is said, "the
fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,”—in Proverbs xxiii. 17, the servant of God is directed "to be in the fear of the Lord all the day long,”—and it is said of the Church of Christ when in its most flourishing condition—Acts ix. 31, that the people of God "walked in the fear of the Lord," as well as "in the comfort of the Holy Ghost."
What then is the nature of this fear of God which is peculiar to those who are his people?—I would briefly describe it in these few particulars :—
and in Psalm ii. 11, "serve the Lord
1st. It is not a natural fear of God, that dread of him, and of his everlasting judgment, which often crosses the mind, and prevails to a considerable extent in those who are living at a distance from him, engrossed in the cares, or pleasures, or sins, which possess the souls of the unregenerate—such a fear of him as Cain had-as Pharoah had as Belshazzar felt or Felix, when he trembled before his messenger-or those of whom the Lord speaks, Hosea vii. 14, saying, that he will not hear them, though in the time of their calamity they “howl upon their beds,”—but it is a godly fear implanted and formed in the soul by the operation of the Spirit of God, even that which is spoken of Jer. xxxii. 40, wherein the Lord promises to those who have an interest in his everlasting covenant, that he will "put his fear in their hearts,”— evidently representing in this, that the fear of God which is acceptable to him, is not a natural fear but supernatural, the work of his own grace in the souls of his people.
3rd. It is a fear of God which constrains him who is under the influence of it, habitually to abstain from all that God forbids, and to give cheerful and unreserved obedience to whatsoever he commands.
Thus Prov. viii. 13, It is said, “the fear of the Lord is to hate evil,”—and again, Eccles. xii. 14, "let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter, fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” If you wil, look closely to this latter passage you will see that the word " duty" is in italies
2nd. It is a fear of God which produces in those who are possessed of it, holy, reverential feelings towards him, whether in those things which relate to his worship, or in any thing in which his name or his cause is concerned.
This is that which is alluded to, Heb. xii. 28, where the apostle says to the Lord's yeople, "let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and with godly fear,”—
showing that it is not found in the
ments,—It is in all these points of view,
We have now to consider,
This then, is the nature of that fear which is peculiar to those who are indeed the people of God, and is quite distinct from any fear of God which may exist or even prevail in the unconverted man,it is a godly fear of him, a grace of the Lord's own implanting in the soul of the believer it is a fear of him, which in the midst of the posssession of the greatest privileges, and the attainment of the highest spiritual enjoyment, never permits him to lose sight of the glorious Majesty of him with whom he has to do, but causes him to walk thus in the habitual fear of him all the day long,—and a fear of God which makes him to hate and avoid sin, to love his will, and to give cheerful obedience to all his command
II. God's solemn declaration concerning his dealings by those whose characters answer this description—that "it shall be well with them."-"Surely (he says) it shall be well with them."— Similar to Isaiah iii.--10, Say ye to the righteous that it shall be well with
Oftentimes we look at such characters as these, and to the eye of sense it is not well with them, they are afflicted perhaps in their bodies, tried and distressed in their temporal concerns, under severe pressure from pecuniary difficulties, and pained perhaps and harrassed by domestic calamities; but seeing that the Lord has said concerning such, that under all circumstances "surely it shall be well with them," we would look a little more closely into the subject, and consider some of those respects in which this is always the case with them.
1st. It is obviously well with them as regards their spiritual interests-upon these, outward circumstances can produce no change.
They have, for instance, the pardon of their sin by Christ, and the full and everlasting deliverance from the condemnation which is due to them for it, and of
them.-yea, let it be with them outwardly as it will, nothing can deprive them of that blessedness which is spoken of, Psalms xxxii.—1, when in the comfortable assurance of the possession of this benefit, the Psalmist exclaims—“ Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered-Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity."-Great may be the outward trials to which the child of God is exposed, but how light and trifling are all in comparison with that tremendous weight of everlasting condemnation which is hanging over him on account of the sin of his soul! Let this be removed then, let him have the assurance of the pardon of his sin and acceptance with God through Christ, the less is swallowed up by the greater, and let outward circumstances be as they will, he knows,-yes! and he feels that "it is well with him."
this no outward calamity can deprive | and thus it is that those who, through faith, are partakers of the blessings of the new covenant in Christ, are as it were taken up into this chariot, and in it are not only sheltered from the curse due to them for their sin, but borne in safety towards the possession of their everlasting inheritance, encompassed on every side by divine love. Behold the believer, then, under all the varying circumstances of life, and in this respect "it is well with him." Does his outward estate wither and seem to be utterly destroyed? yet still the Lord loves him.-Is he poor? still God loves him.-Is he sick? still God loves him.-Is he in disgrace? still God loves him.-Do friends and relations forsake him? still God loves him and will cleave to him for ever, as the friend who is nearer than a brother.How well! O how very well is it then with those who are thus beloved of God: however outwardly they may be tried and troubled, the assurance of this love can make up for the loss of all, and enable the believer in the midst of calamities to rejoice in the Lord with joy unspeakable and full of glory. See with what holy complacency and delight the apostle Paul dwelt upon this subject, when, speaking of his own experience and that of those who are partakers of the same faith with him, Rom. viii. 35, &c., he exclaims"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or
They have moreover the love of God continually resting upon them in every possible circumstance in which his providence places them. It is to this that allusion is made Cant. iii. 9, 10, in which the Church, speaking of Christ under the name of King Solomon standing as he did an eminent type of the Messiah, says
King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon: he made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love for the daughters of Jerusalem." | peril, or sword? Nay in all these things This chariot, made of the most precious we are more than conquerors through materials for the daughters of Jerusalem, him that loved us. For I am persuaded, represented the Covenant of redemption that neither death, nor life, nor angels wrought out and provided for his people nor principalities, nor powers, nor things by the Lord Jesus. The various mate- present, nor things to come, nor height, rials of which it was made I cannot now nor depth, nor any other creature, shall delay to speak of, but only would observe be able to separate us from the love of upon it; "the covering of it was God, which is in Christ Jesus." Let us purple,” representing the blood of Christ then seek an interest in that love. Let which shelters his people from the wrath us seek to be enabled to realise our own of God, which otherwise would rest upon individual personal interest in it-to be them, and consume them for ever ;—and satisfied of its being unchangeable as the "the midst of it was paved with love," | character of him who has freely bestowed
it, and thus it shall be well with us; and let outward circumstances be as they will, we shall be able to feel that "surely it is well with us."
This is a point which appears not to be taken at all into account by many of those who do indeed fear God, and are numbered among the servants of Christ. They seem to consider that the Lord does care for their spiritual interests, that he will abundantly supply all the wants of their souls, so as to qualify them in due time to enter into the enjoyment of the glory which he has provided and prepared for them; but as for the body, the supply of its wants, and the providing of those things which are necessary for its comfort and support, these are matters of such trivial importance, that they are not or cannot be an object of his care. This mistake, however, is met and corrected by our blessed Lord in his sermon on the Mount, wherein, in that part of it in which he speaks on this subject, viz. Mat. vi. 25-33, he tells those who are indeed his children, that their minds need not be distressed or anxious about their temporal concerns, such as what they shall eat, or what they shall drink, or wherewithal shall they be clothed the future provision in fact for themselves and their families.
added-thrown, as it were, into the heap, of little comparative value indeed in themselves, but freely bestowed by their Heavenly Father, who loves them as his 2dly. It is well with them" as children, and cares not only for their regards their temporal concerns. everlasting salvation, but even for their temporal comforts. What an example we have of this in the case of Job, concerning whom Satan himself was obliged to acknowledge (Job i. 10.) that the Lord had "set a hedge about him and about his house, and about all that he had, on every side," that there was, as it were, an invisible hedge about him, his family, and his property, which Satan, with all his malice and wish to injure him, could not pass, so as to hurt a hair of his head; and thus, by the care and power of God, he was protected, none able to injure him, until the Lord, for a season for Job's own good, and for the instruction and edification of his church in every age, withdrew his hand, and permitted his enemy to make a breach upon him. It is in the assurance of this, then, that the Psalmist thus addresses the people of God, Ps. xxxiv. 9, 10. " O fear the Lord all ye his saints, for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord, shall not want any good thing."
He assures them that their heavenly Father, who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field, knows their wants, and will assuredly supply them; and then he lays down this as the course to be pursued by his people, who have cause for anxiety upon these subjects v. 33. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you," promising them, that having the Lord's service and glory as their first concern, the first object of their lives, they shall not only be blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, but to these all temporal things shall be
Think not, however, from these observations, that I would have you to suppose that God's people are to expect of necessity to be always in a state of temporal prosperity, and that where this is not the case, there is reason to doubt their sincerity, or else to conclude that they have committed some flagrant sin which has brought down upon them the divine displeasure ;-far from it!—my persuasion is, that in the promise that he will not withhold any good thing from them, is included the not withholding from them trials and troubles, if they be for their real good. These are often necessary for his children, to humble their pride-to empty them of self-to teach them the insufficieney of the creature for their comfort, and to