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FEAR OF GOD.
JOB XXVIII. 28. And unto man he said, behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to
depart from evil is understanding.
you look back to the twelfth verse, you shall find an inquiry made after wisdom; and in the following verses, there is a description of the wisdom of God's providence, whereby he doth marshal and rank the innumerable sorts of creatures that are in the world. This wisdom of providence directs us to the wisdom of the law: this world being the school of rational spirits, every part of it, every creature, reads unto us a lecture of divinity. But the question is, what is that voice, that is conveyed to us by all these things; the answer is, “ the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding." If you look into this great volume, the book of the creatures, which is written within and without, written within with invisible essences, the angels, &c. written without with corporeal substances, all the visible objects of nature; and if you would know what is God's design in all these, it is this, that man should learn to fear him, that being the chiefest wisdom, and to depart from evil, that being the most eminent understanding. This is the connexion of the words. In that part, which at the present, I intend to prosecute and treat of, you may observe first the subject, The fear of the Lord. Secondly, The predicate, that is wisdom.
The doctrine which I shall insist on is this, the fear of God is eminently wisdom.
I. Now in the opening of the first head, the fear of God, we will consider,
i. The nature of God's fear.
iii. Distinguish it from that degenerate fear that is in wicked men.
iv. Show you the products and effects of it.
v. Speak concerning those seeming contrary graces to which it is united, as faith, love, hope and joy, &c.
vi. Answer some questions, how far, and in what manner the threatenings of the word should work upon the fear of a converted person.
vii. And then exhort you to this fear of God,
The nature of the fear of God,
1. HEAD of discourse, the fear of God.
i. The nature of it. The fear of God in scripture is sometimes taken more generally, and so it imports the whole circle of divine duties, and of religious worship. Thus it is said, Eccl. 12. 13. “ fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” And the reason why fear is thus taken, is partly because the fear of God hath an influx upon all the duties of godliness, it being, (if I may so speak) the præpositus that guides and orders them, and therefore it may well be
put for the whole service that we owe to our Creator; and partly, because the fear of God is an eminent piece of godliness, one of the prime parts of God's service. As an artificer receives his title from that work about which he is most conversant. Upon this account it is, you shall find in scripture, sometimes a godly man is described by his fear. Job was a man “ fearing God ;” and so “ blessed is the man that feareth God,” which is the description of a gracious person.
2. This fear of God is taken in a more restrained and limited sense, and so the fear of God imports, that sanctified affection and sanctifying grace, whereby the soul doth solemnly and reverently reflect upon God's perfections, and from thence is moved in all things to promote God's honour.
The objects of the fear of God.
. Now this fear will be further opened to you, if you consider its objects, which are the perfections of God; and those I shall present to you in this order.
1. The majesty of God, which appears in the works of nature and providence. There is a beam of God's glorious essence, which shines forth in all the parts of the creation, that should draw forth our fear. The firmament over our heads is so great a body, that the earth is but a prick or a point, if compared with it; yet that vast heaven, nay the heaven of heavens, cannot contain God. This discovery of his majesty, and of his immensity, should draw forth our fear, “ who would not fear thee thou King of nations ?” When you look down and consider that vast collection of waters that is in the sea; and that God by one word, doth bound the raging seas, that he swathes them with a girdle of sand, as a nurse doth a little infant; this should fill the soul with a religious awe. The thunder is God's voice, whereby he summons the world to dread and reverence him ; nay (as little as you think of it) the very clouds, which are the water-pots of heaven, when they descend upon the earth, should move our fear : for God saith by the prophet, “ will you not fear me, that send the former and the latter rain ?" Jer. 5. 24. All the works of the creation should draw forth this grace. And certainly he that shall but consider with himself that expression of scripture, that “ man is but a worm, and the inhabitants of
а the earth are as grasshoppers,” &c. and make a comparison be
а tween God and himself; between God's majesty, and man's meanness, if then he doth not fear God, he acteth below his duty.
2. The purity of God is the object of our fear. This (which is revealed in its glory in heaven) causeth the holy angels, and glorified saints, to pay the tribute of reverence to God for ever, Isa. 6. 1, 2, 3. There you shall find the prophet's vision of the Lord sitting upon a throne high, and his train lifted up, filling the temple. The seraphims stood about him, and they cried out and said, “ holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.” They had a sight and view of God's holiness; and what is the effect of it? “ They had six wings, with twain they covered their faces," as being unworthy to behold the glory of God's holiness; and “ with twain they covered their feet,” as being unworthy to be beheld by that holy God; and “ with two they did fly." Rev. 15. 4. “ Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name, for thou only art holy ?” He that doth not fear God's majesty, I told you he acts below his duty; but he that doth not fear God's purity, doth not consider his sins. Because we have narrow thoughts of God's holiness, therefore we fear him so little. If our understandings were clarified so far, as to see the immaculateness of his purity, we should then fear him more. When the Lord Jesus Christ made a small discovery of his divinity, in a miracle, Peter presently falls down, and cries out, “ Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Luke 5. 8. Purity and majesty conjoined, strike a sinner into consternation.
3. Another object of our fear is God's all seeing eye, Psal. 16. 8. “ I have set the Lord always before me,” how? I have set