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THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
Psal. cxlvii. 11. The Lord taketh pleafure in those
that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.
I TAVING, in the preceding discourse, briefly
I gone through the doctrinal part, it only remains, that, in the
VI. And last place, I make a practical improvement of the whole ; in doing which, I propose to enlarge at considerable length, by adverting to the different parts of this subject. I begin,
I. With an use of information. It informs us, - 1. That God in Christ is full of good-will to poor finners. Since he will have them thus to depend upon him as children on a father, fearing and hoping in him ; he it is who will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, 1 Tim. ii. 4. Is not this a plain proof that he hath no pleasure in the death of him that dieth ? Eccl. xviii. 13. and that their ruin is of themselves, if they should perish; that he does not cast them off that hang by him, nor cast them out that come unto him, John, vi. 37.
2. That however prosperous and favourable our case be, we have ground to keep up a holy
fear fear upon our fpirits : “ Happy is the man that feareth alway,” Prov. xxviii. 14. Whether it be that our outward state in the world, or our fpiritual state, be peaceful, easy, and prosperous, still there is ground to fear, for we are in hazard of offending God in it. There is no way so plain and even, but we may stumble in it. Outward prosperity ruins many : “ The prosperity of fools Thall destroy them,” Prov. i. 3i. And even in a. prosperous state of the soul, there is no safety in being secure and careless, for in the managing of that we are apt to offend : 2 Cor. xii. 7. “ Lest. I should be exalted above measure, through the abundance of the revelations, there was given unto me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” No paradise on earth but the ferpent may be found there ; and if one were rapt up to the third heavens, like Paul, they will bring back with them a corrupt heart, ready to give them a slip, or lead them astray. We are in danger of a heavy turn and sad change in our condition, we are « to serve God with fear, and rejoice with trembling," Psal. ii. 11. See how quickly David's prosperity was changed : Psal. xxx. 7. « Thou didīt hide thy face, and I was troubled.” Job's condition, both temporal and spiritual, how suddenly was it changed? Sovereignty lifts up and casts down, and the anger of a jealous God may soon be stirred, so as to make a mighty overturn in one's condition ; therefore we should not be « high-minded, but fear,” Rom. xi. 20. thing with God. God says to the finner, Believest thou that I can do these things? If thou doft, there is a ground of kindly hope.--In, a word, the covenant of promife reaches to, and includes mercy of all kinds, necessary to make us happy; so that we have not only God's power, but his will, to give us mercy in all cases held out to us in the word, if so be we will take his way of faith and hope.- From this subject there is,
3. It informs us, that however low one's case be, there is still room for hope while here ; therefore we should always entertain a kindly hope : Psal. xliii. 5. “ Why art thou cast down, O my soul? why art thou disquieted in me? Hope in
II. An use of exhortation, in several branches.
.. Fear the Lord; get and entertain a holy fear of God in your fpirits. The profane and licerie tious lives of fome, the carnal and loose hearts of others, proclaim a general want of this, Pfal. xxxvi. 1. « The transgression of the wicked faith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.” But all fear of God is not a holy fear pleasing to God. There is a servile fear, and a filial fear. Not to the former, but to the latter, I exhort you.
Herewith some various difficulties and inquiries may arise, which we shall endeavour to answer, such as,
1. When is the fear of God only flavish ? In answer to this, take the following Observations : The fear of God is only flavish,
(1.) When it ariseth only from the confideration of God's wrath as a just Judge. This fear of God is to be found in the unconverted; they have the fpirit of bondage again to fear, Rom. viii. 15.; yea, in the devils, they believe and tremble, Jam. ii. 19. ; and if the conscience once be awakened, though the heart be not fanctified, this fear cannot miss to take place. It is a natural passion flowing from self-love and a sight of danger, which is so much the more vehement, in proportion as the dangerapprehended is greater or smaller, nearer or more diftant. One under this fear, fears God as, the slave fears his master, because of the whip, which he is afraid of being lashed; he abstains from fin, not out of hatred of it, but because of the wrath of God annexed to it. An apprehension of God's heavy hand on him here, or of hell and damnation hereafter, is the predominant motive of his fear of God, whom he fears only as an incenfed Judge, and his powerful enemy.
(2.) When it checks or kills the love of God. There is a fear opposite to the love of God, which by this very character is discovered to be base and servile : 1 John, iv. 18. “ 'There is no, fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment.” There is a necessary connection be. twixt true fear and love, the one cannot be without the other; they are both links of the fame chain of grace, which the Holy Spirit gives those whom he sanctifies; but slavish fear fills the heart with hard thoughts of God, and the more it pre. vails, the farther is the soul from the love of God.
(3.) When it' drives the finner away from God. Under its influence, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God, and Cain went out from his presence. All the graces of the Spirit, as they come from the Lord, so they carry the finner back to him; so no doubt it is an ungracious fear of God that frights the finner a. way from him ; for they that seek and return to him, will fear him and his righteousness. This fear hath this effect in different degrees, and the higher the worse :- It takes heart and hand from persons in their approaches to God, 1 John iv. 18. quoted already; it kills them before the Lord, knocks all confidence and hope in God on the head, so that their hearts at duty are like Nabal's,
(31) w farther is the God, and this fills the heard