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FEAR AND HOPE, OBJECTS OF THE DIVINE
Psal. cxlvii. 11.-The Lord taketh pleasure in them
that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.
THERE are times of danger in which the
event is very doubtful, but even then the safety and success will always be on the side the Lord casts them. In consequence, it is an important question, How may we engage him on our fide ? Certain it is, his pleasure lies not in created strength. Horse and foot, courage 'and strength, may be on the side which God will disown, and which shall be worsted : “ By strength,” says he, “ shall no man prevail,” i Sam. ii. 9. His pleasure is in the strength of grace : “ He will keep the feet of his faints;" or, as it is expreffed in the text, The Lord takes pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy. In which words we have,
1. The * Delivered July 27.1718..
1. The character of those whose part the Lord will take in all their trials and troubles, and in all their encounters with their enemies. The first part of their character is, they are fearers of God. They have the awe of his majesty upon their fpirits.---The second is, that they hope in, or rather for his mercy. They, in a becoming manner, wait and patiently seek for relief from God, and that in the way of mercy through Christ, not for any thing in themselves.--Observe next the the mixture of these parts of their character : They do not only fear God, but hope in him ; for fear without hope will fink into raging despair. They not only hope, but fear, for hope without fear will turn into presumption. These two God hath joined together, let not us put them asunder.
2. The privileges of these persons, whoever may be displeased with them, and however much they may be displeased with themselves, God takes pleasure in them. He accepts their persons, and their services, and he will shew himself to be on their lide. They shall not hope in vain ; however hape. Jess their care be in itself, they shall get a merciful relief in due time.
From these words, observe this
DocTRINE, The Lord takes pleasure in those,
who, whatever case they be in, entertain a holy fear of him, with a kindly hope in his mercy,
In discoursing which, it is intended, I. Shortly to describe this holy fear, that in all cases ought to be entertained, with a hope of the Lord's mercy.
II. To describe that kindly hope of his mercy, to be entertained in all cases, along with this holy fear..
III. To shew the necessity of keeping up this holy fear and kindly hope in all cases together in the soul.
IV. To shew what is that pleasure the Lord takes in such.
V. To confirm the doctrine of the text.
VI. To make a practical improvement of the different parts of the subject.
differen Tomfirm the
I'Am, then, . I. Shortly to describe this holy fear, that in all cases ought to be entertained, with a hope of the Lord's mercy. This fear of God is,
1. An awe and dread of his majesty and tran. scendent greatness : Psal. lxxxix. 6. 7. “ For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord ? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the Lord.?. God is greatly to be feared in the affembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence of all them that are about him." With this the lightness and vanity of the heart is to be repressed. The soul must entertain high and honourable thoughts of God, as a sovereign of independent being, in whom all perfections do concenter, must look up to the clouds and behold him on his throne in heaven, and so bring itself thereby to a profound . reverence of his greatness.
2. A reverence of his absolute, his unlimited authority and power: “ Fear him,” said Jesus, “who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him,” Luke xii. 5..; he can command us whatsoever he will, and dispose of us as he pleaseth. . Let us have a reverential regard to the uncontroulable sceptre he sways over · all creatures. Since he doth in heaven and in earth what feemeth good unto him, and none can stay
his hand, or say unto him, What dost thou ? we « should filently submit to his dispofals.
3. A fear of offending him in any thing : Psal. iv. 4. “ Stand in awe, and fin not.” This is a fear, and caution, and circumspection, which we should always carry about and never lay aside. We walk amidst many snares ; Satan and a corrupt heart are ready to entangle us ; but God cannot away with sin; it is the only offence we can give him. He is well pleafed to see us afraid of offending him, to see the poor finner affrighted at every thing that is provoking to him, and keeping up a holy tenderness this way.
4. A fear of imputing iniquity to him, or harbouring hard and unbecoming thoughts of his majesty, Job, i. 22. “ In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” The proud heart casting off the fear of God, arraigns and condemns the conduct of holy Providence as rigorous and unrighteous; and so murmurs against the Lord. But holy fear filenceth the mutiny of these unruly passions, and says, “ He does all things well, is holy and righteous in all his ways and works.”
5. A dread of going out of his way for help, however hard the case be: Isa. viii. 13. 14. “ Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread; and he shall be for a fanctuary ; but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence, to both the houses of Israel; for a gin and for a fnare, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem ; and many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be taken.” Holy fear takes off the wheels of the chariot of impatience and unsanctified hafte, which drives furiously to get out of that case in which infinite wisdom has placed us. The soul dare not
adventure to shake off the yoke, till the Lord to his own hand and take it off. . Lastly, A dread of his holy hand in his judgements : Amos, iii. 8. “ The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophecy ?” - This fear keeps the heart from slight thoughts of them, and furnishes awful thoughts of a siniting God, the weight of whose hand no man is able to bear. And there is here a dread of the hand of the Lord lying on their person for the past : Heb. xii. 5.“ My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him.” The man noticeth the stroke, and what impressions of anger are engraven on it, and so he putteth his mouth in the duft, if so there may be hope, Lam. iii. 29. Whatever he meets with, he takes it as from the Lord, and reverenceth the hand that smiteth.There is, (2.) A dread of what the Lord may inflict upon him: Psal. cxix. 120. “ My flesh trem. bleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgements.” The fearer of the Lord fees, that whatever be his stroke, it is less than his deferving. They say as Ezra, chap. ix. 13. “ Thou, our God, has punished less than our iniquities deserve;" and therefore submits themselves, left the Lord makes the stroke greater, and punish us seven times more.
Let us now,
II. Describe that kindly hope of his mercy, to be entertained in all cases along with this holy fear. It is,
1. A firm persuasion of the good, gracious, and bountiful nature of God, who delights not in the misery of his creatures : Psalxxv. 8 « Good and upright is the Lord, therefore will he teach sinners in the way.” Ezek, xviii. 23. “Have I any pleasure