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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : The Fear of God

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Joined: 2008/10/30
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 The Fear of God

There is a fear of God that driveth a man away from God—I speak not now of the atheist, nor of the pleasurable sinner, nor yet of these, and that fear that I spoke of just now—I speak now of such who through a sense of sin and of God's justice fly from him of a slavish ungodly fear. This ungodly fear was that which possessed Adam's heart in the day that he did eat of the tree concerning which the Lord has said unto him, "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." For then was he possessed with such a fear of God as made him seek to hide himself from his presence. "I heard," said he, "thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself" (Gen 3:10). Mind it, he had a fear of God, but it was not godly. It was not that that made him afterwards submit himself unto him; for that would have kept him from not departing from him, or else have brought him to him again, with bowed, broken, and contrite spirit. But this fear, as the rest of his sin, managed his departing from his God, and pursued him to provoke him still so to do; by it he kept himself from God, by it his whole man was carried away from him. I call it ungodly fear, because it begat in him ungodly apprehensions of his Maker; because it confined Adam's conscience to the sense of justice only, and consequently to despair.

The same fear also possessed the children of Israel when they heard the law delivered to them on Mount Sinai; as is evident, for it made them that they could neither abide his presence nor hear his word. It drove them back from the mountain. It made them, saith the apostle to the Hebrews, that "they could not endure that which was commanded" (Heb 12:20). Wherefore this fear Moses rebukes, and forbids their giving way thereto. "Fear not," said he; but had that fear been godly, he would have encouraged it, and not forbid and rebuke it as he did. "Fear not," said he, "for God is come to prove you" ; they thought otherwise. "God," saith he, "is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces." Therefore that fear that already had taken possession of them, was not the fear of God, but a fear that was of Satan, of their own misjudging hearts, and so a fear that was ungodly (Exo 20:18-20). Mark you, here is a fear and a fear, a fear forbidden, and a fear commended; a fear forbidden, because it engendered their hearts to bondage, and to ungodly thoughts of God and of his word; it made them that they could not desire to hear God speak to them any more (vv 19-21).

Many also at this day are possessed with this ungodly fear; and you may know them by this,—they cannot abide conviction for sin, and if at any time the word of the law, by the preaching of the word, comes near them, they will not abide that preacher, nor such kind of sermons any more. They are, as they deem, best at ease, when furthest off of God, and of the power of his word. The word preached brings God nearer to them than they desire he should come, because whenever God comes near, their sins by him are manifest, and so is the judgment too that to them is due. Now these not having faith in the mercy of God through Christ, nor that grace that tendeth to bring them to him, they cannot but think of God amiss, and their so thinking of him makes them say unto him, "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways" (Job 21:14). Wherefore their wrong thoughts of God beget in them this ungodly fear; and again, this ungodly fear doth maintain in them the continuance of these wrong and unworthy thoughts of God, and therefore, through that devilish service wherewith they strengthen one another, the sinner, without a miracle of grace prevents him, is drowned in destruction and perdition.

Job was in great affliction and that, as he confessed, for sin, insomuch that he said God had set him for his mark to shoot at, and that he ran upon him like a giant, that he took him by the neck and shook him to pieces, and counted him for his enemy; that he hid his face from him, and that he could not tell where to find him; yet he counted not all this as a sign of a damnable state, but as a trial, and chastisement, and said, when he was in the hottest of the battle, "when he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold." And again, when he was pressed upon by the tempter to think that God would kill him, he answers with greatest confidence, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 7:20, 13:15, 14:12, 16, 19:11, 23:8-10).

David complained that God had broken his bones, that he had set his face against his sins, and had taken from him the joy of his salvation: yet even at this time he saith, "O God, thou God of my salvation" (Psa 51:8,9,12,14).

Heman complained that his soul was full of 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, and had hid his face from him. 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 88).

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 1:5, 2:1,2,5, 3:7,8,16, 5:22, 3:24,31,58).

Those who are adopted into the family of heaven are "justified from all things" ; being delivered from sin, the curse, and wrath, "there is now no condemnation for them" ; and trusting to Jesus' precious blood of pardon, to his righteousness for acceptance, and to his grace for sanctification, they are, by the indwelling of the Spirit which adopted them, possessed of that love which casteth out fear, and rejoiceth in hope of the glory of God. And to those who, through their manifold infirmities and departures, are often beset with unbelieving fears, the Lord says, for their encouragement, "Fear thou not, for I am with thee; I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness" (Isa 41:10).—Mason.

Effectual grace in the soul is accompanied by doubts and fears, owing to the remains of indwelling corruption; hence arises a continual warfare. Believer, how needful is it ever to retain your confidence and assurance of your Lord's love to you! Rely on his faithfulness, persevere steadfastly in the way of duty, looking to Jesus, and living upon his fulness.—Mason.

"Sin, after that the spirit of adoption is come, cannot dissolve the relation of Father and son, of Father and child. And this the church did rightly assert, and that when her heart was under great hardness, and when she had the guilt of erring from his ways, saith she. "Doubtless thou art our Father" (Isa 63:16,17). Doubtless thou art, though this be our case, and though Israel should not acknowledge us for such.

That sin dissolveth not the relation of Father and son is further evident—"When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, [Abba, or] Father, Father." Now mark, "wherefore thou art no more a servant" ; that is, no more under the law of death and damnation, "but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" (Gal 4:4-7).

Yet lest the devil (for some are "not ignorant of his devices" ), should get an advantage against some of the sons, to draw them away from the filial fear of their Father, let me here, to prevent such temptations, present such with these following considerations.

First. Though God cannot, will not, dissolve the relation which the spirit of adoption hath made betwixt the Father and the Son, for any sins that such do commit, yet he can, and often doth, take away from them the comfort of their adoption, not suffering children while sinning to have the sweet and comfortable sense thereof on their hearts. He can tell how to let snares be round about them, and sudden fear trouble them. He can tell how to send darkness that they may not see, and to let abundance of waters cover them (Job 22:10,11).

Second. God can tell how to hide his face from them, and so to afflict them with that dispensation, that it shall not be in the power of all the world to comfort them. "When he hideth his face, who then can behold him?" (Job 23:8,9, 34:29).

Third. God can tell how to make thee again to possess the sins that he long since hath pardoned, and that in such wise that things shall be bitter to thy soul. "Thou writest bitter things against me," says Job, "and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth." By this also he once made David groan and pray against it as an insupportable affliction (Job 13:26; Psa 25:7).

Fourth. God can lay thee in the dungeon in chains, and roll a stone upon thee, he can make thy feet fast in the stocks, and make thee a gazing-stock to men and angels (Lam 3:7,53,55; Job 13:27; Nahum 3:6).

Fifth. God can tell how to cause to cease the sweet operations and blessed influences of his grace in thy soul, and to make those gospel showers that formerly thou hast enjoyed to become now to thee nothing but powder and dust (Psa 51; Deut 28:24).

Sixth. God can tell how to fight against thee "with the sword of his mouth," and to make thee a butt for his arrows; and this is a dispensation most dreadful (Rev 2:16; Job 6:4; Psa 38:2-5).

Seventh. God can tell how so to bow thee down with guilt and distress that thou shalt in no wise be able to lift up thy head (Psa 40:12).

Eighth. God can tell how to break thy bones, and to make thee by reason of that to live in continual anguish of spirit: yea, he can send a fire into thy bones that shall burn, and none shall quench it (Psa 51:8; Lam 3:4, 1:13; Psa 102:3; Job 30:30).

Ninth. God can tell how to lay thee aside, and make no use of thee as to any work for him in thy generation. He can throw thee aside "as a broken vessel" (Psa 31:12; Eze 44:10-13).

Tenth. God can tell how to kill thee, and to take thee away from the earth for thy sins (1 Cor 11:29-32).

Eleventh. God can tell how to plague thee in thy death, with great plagues, and of long continuance (Psa 78:45; Deut 28).

Twelfth. What shall I say? God can tell how to let Satan loose upon thee; when thou liest a dying he can license him then to assault thee with great temptations, he can tell how to make thee possess the guilt of all thy unkindness towards him, and that when thou, as I said, art going out of the world, he can cause that thy life shall be in continual doubt before thee, and not suffer thee to take any comfort day nor night; yea, he can drive thee even to a madness with his chastisements for thy folly, and yet all shall be done by him to thee, as a father chastiseth his son (Deut 28:65-67).

Thirteenth. Further, God can tell how to tumble thee from off thy deathbed in a cloud, he can let thee die in the dark; when thou art dying thou shalt not know whither thou art going, to wit, whether to heaven or to hell. Yea, he can tell how to let thee seem to come short of life, both in thine own eyes, and also in the eyes of them that behold thee. "Let us therefore fear," says the apostle,—though not with slavish, yet with filial fear—"lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it" (Heb 4:1).

Now all this, and much more, can God do to his as a Father by his rod and fatherly rebukes; ah, who know but those that are under them, what terrors, fears, distresses, and amazements God can bring his people into; he can put them into a furnace, a fire, and no tongue can tell what, so unsearchable and fearful are his fatherly chastisements, and yet never give them the spirit of bondage again to fear. Therefore, if thou art a son, take heed of sin, lest all these things overtake thee, and come upon thee."




 2010/2/20 6:38Profile

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