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eternal kingdom. And this God, who is the supreme object of love, is also the object of pious reverence and fear, as necessarily implied in true love. Thus pious love and fear imply and involve each other, and are really but one and the same affection, which this grand and glorious object is suited to excite. This fear of God implies a view and sense of his greatness and unlimited power, of his unchangeable designs, and our absolute and constant dependence on him, on his will, in every respect, for existence and every motion, and all good, he being our potter, and we the clay in his hand, living, moving, and moved, and having our being in him. It also implies a view and sense of our own infinite vileness and ill desert, and of the infinite evil which God is able to inflict, and may justly bring upon us; and that his almighty power and sovereign grace alone can prevent our being destroyed forever, into which destruction many have fallen, and are falling continually; and that we depend wholly on him, even his sovereign, forfeited mercy, to prevent our going to eternal ruin, and on his constant energy
grace, to cause us to cleave to him and go in the way to heaven, we being nothing but insufficiency and vanity before the infinite, all-sufficient Being; and in this view exercising self-diffidence, humility, and trust, and dependence in God, dreading his displeasure above all things, and submitting to him, with a disposition and desire to obey him in all things, forever. All this is implied in the true fear of God. But it may be expressed in fewer words, and perhaps more clearly to some minds, thus : To fear God is to be properly affected with his infinite greatness and terrible majesty, threatening and punishing his implacable enemies with everlasting destruction; to feel ourselves and all the creation as nothing before him, and wholly dependent upon him; to be suitably affected with our own guilt and vileness, and our absolute dependence on his sovereign, undeserved mercy for pardon, and the renovation of our minds to holy exercises.
The whole of this is expressed or implied in the following passages of Scripture : “ Fear bim who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him." (Luke xii
. 5.) All will grant that Christ here enjoins religious, pious fear of God upon all who love him. And God is represented in his terrible majesty as the object of this fear, they being wholly in his hands, and dependent upon him, who is able, and may justly, if he pleases, cast them into hell, and make them miserable forever. Upon this two things may be observed :
1. That it is here supposed that God does cast some into hell, and inflict eternal evil upon them. For if this could not
be done consistent with his character and perfections, or with his known design, merely his having power to do that wbich it is known he never will do, and cannot do, consistent with his moral perfection, does not render him more an object of religious fear than if he had no such power; and it would be only an empty bugbear and scarecrow, set up to excite fear without any reason, which cannot be supposed. If no such evil as that of being cast into hell bad existence, or ever will be inflicted, in any instance, then it could not be reasonably proposed as an object of fear.
2. If this evil of being cast into hell be a reality, God having power to do it, and actually doing it, whenever and in whatever instances he pleases, - that is, when it is necessary for his glory and the greatest good of the whole, — this represents God as an object of religious fear to those who feel themselves in his hands and deserving of this evil, even when they consider themselves as secured from suffering it, by a divine promise through a Mediator. For still eternal torment in hell is a reality, and they deserve it as much as those who are actually cast into it, and are constantly dependent on God's sovereign will to be saved from it; and their escape from hell
, and full, absolute, and unconditional security that they shall not perish, cannot be said to be perfect and completed so long as they are on this side of heaven, in a state of probation, and until they are actually admitted there. Besides, while they, in the exercise of benevolence, behold their fellow-Christians by profession, and their fellow-men, among whom they live, and are uncertain that they will all escape hell, and see them in the hands of God, who casts them into hell, or saves them from this infinitely dreadful evil
, as he pleases, they must have a sensation and exercises independent of their own personal concerns, and however secure they may consider themselves, which is properly called the fear of the Lord and of the glory of his majesty. This is, therefore, enjoined upon all the people of God, as included in their pious obedience to him. " If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, the LORD Thy God, then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful,” &c. (Deut. xxviii. 58.)
And an affection of this same nature and kind will be exercised by the inhabitants of heaven forever, as necessarily included in love to God, in a view of his glorious, fearful, sovereign power and majesty, and of themselves and all creatures, as being infinitely below him, and as nothing in comparison with him, and wholly dependent upon him for existence, every motion of their hearts, and all good, and in a clear view of his terrible wrath against sinners, and the dreadful punishment inflicted upon them. This is represented in the fifteenth chapter of the Revelation. John saw seven angels, having the seven last plagues, for in them is filled up the wrath of God; and at the same time he observed the inhabitants of heaven looking on, singing and saying, “ Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty ; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy; for thy judgments are made manifest.” I proceed to mention another passage of Scripture. “ Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. ii. 12, 13.) Here fear and trembling must mean such exercises of mind as are suitable to their dependence on God and his operating energy for all things, even every motion of their hearts, of will and choice; for this their dependence on God is given as a reason why they should go on in a Christian course with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. They were hanging over hell, and must drop into it, unless supported and rescued by the omnipotent arm of God working in them, and forming them both to will and to do that which was necessary in order to escape hell and obtain heaven, in which God was infinitely above all control, and acted of his own good pleasure, after the counsel of his own will. Here the same idea is held up, and the same truth expressed, with that in our text, as the foundation and reason of man's fearing before God, and working out his salvation with fear and trembling, viz., their absolute dependence on God in all things, even for every thought and motion of heart, which he effectually causes to exist by his invisible, secret, almighty energy, according to his own pleasure, which must be unchangeable, and according to his eternal purpose, including all he would do to eternity in producing every thing, and ordering every event; so that there is but one endless chain of events, made up of innumerable links, of which the least existence, event, and motion, and every circumstance, the most minute, is a necessary part, as well as the greatest, the whole being formed by the wise counsel and will of God, and entirely dependent upon him, and executed by him, and which cannot admit the least possible change or alteration, it being as firmly established and fixed as the existence and throne of the Almighty.
I conclude this head with observing, that it is beyond all controversy certain that the fear of God, as it has been explained, supposes our dependence on him, viewing him as what he is, and ourselves as what we are; and that the more absolute, perfect, and universal this dependence is, the greater foundation there is for this fear, and this affection will be strong and constant in proportion to the view and sense we have of this dependence. Therefore, the doctrine contained in our text lays the best and most perfect foundation for the exercise of the fear of God, and is every way suited to promote it; and every opinion and sentiment which contradicts this, and represents man as in any degree self-sufficient, and independent in any respect, is contrary to the true fear of God, and tends to prevent or destroy it.
3. An entire, unreserved trust in God is an exercise of true piety, and essential to it. The only foundation for this is his all-sufficiency, his being unchangeable in his goodness, truth, and faithfulness, and omnipotent, supreme, or doing every thing as he pleases, and guiding all things by his constant, universal agency, so as to answer the most wise and best end. Every thing contrary to such a character is inconsistent with his being an object of unreserved trust and confidence to the pious mind.
If God were not unchangeable in his attributes and designs; and had he not all creatures and things under his direction and control; and could there be one motion or action in the universe independent of his direction, agency, and will; and did he not know what is the best end, and what are the wisest and best means, to accomplish it; and was he not unchangeably determined what he would do in the exercise of infinite wisdom and goodness, – the benevolent, pious mind would have no foundation of unreserved trust and confidence. But our God is not so. “He is the Rock, his work is
perfect; for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” The pious mind, feeling his absolute, entire dependence, and the universal dependence of all things, on this God, whom he loves with all his heart, puts his whole trust in him, and relies upon him with the most unreserved confidence and the greatest satisfaction and pleasure. “ He beholds the hand of God conducting all the hidden springs and movements of the universe, and with a secret, but unerring operation, directing every event," so as to promote and effect the greatest possible good, his own glory and the greatest happiness of his kingdom, and of all who trust in him, and with pleasure places the greatest and most unreserved confidence in him, and casts all his care upon him. " He rests in the Lord, and waits patiently for him."
• Dr. Blair's Sermons, vol. i. p. 46.
Thus the pious, benevolent man trusts in God to glorify himself by all things and all events that take place, however dark and of a contrary tendency they may appear to him to be; and he implicitly, without seeing how it may be done, relies upon him to bring good, unspeakable good, out of all evil; so that no event shall take place that shall not be best, on the whole, and all shall issue to the greatest advantage to his servants and his eternal kingdom ; and he places his hope and trust wholly in this God for all he desires and wants for himself personally and for his fellow-creatures, for body or soul, in time and to eternity; and the language of his heart is that of David, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.” (Ps. Ixii. 5.)
In short, this doctrine, inculcated in our text and taught through the whole Bible, being understandingly and cordially received, will pull down and destroy that self-confidence and self-dependence which is natural to man, and with which selflove inspires him: it is levelled directly against the selfishness and pride of man, and suited to cast down every high thing in his heart which exalts itself against the knowledge of God; to exalt God and humble man, and form him to cleave to God and the Redeemer, in a humble trust and dependence on him alone. No wonder, then, that this doctrine is so disagreeable to those whose selfishness and pride have never been subdued, and has been so much opposed in this sinful world.
4. An entire, unconditional resignation to the will of God, and pleasing acquiescence in it, is an essential part of true piety. In order to this, the will of God must be considered as unchangeably wise and good, and as wisely ordering and guiding all events to answer a good end, and ordering all evil as the necessary occasion and means of the greatest good. God cannot be omnipotent, infinitely wise and good, unless he has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass; and, therefore, on any other supposition there would be no foundation or reason for an implicit, unreserved resignation to his will. The pious, benevolent mind cannot acquiesce in any thing or event which is not wise and good; it cannot be reconciled to evil, considered in itself only as evil; but, in order to be pleased with its taking place, it must be considered in its connection with the good of which it is the occasion. Therefore, true resignation to the will of God does suppose him to guide all the move. ments in the universe, and order all events in infinite wisdom