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but with abhorrence; if we think, at the same time, how dependent we are upon him; how little we are ; how guilty; how exposed to his anger; how imperfect in our best services; and how undeserving of any acceptance : if we remember, that he is, and that there is none beside him; and that not only we, but all nations are as nothing before him; that he is glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, and transcendently awful in his purity: it cannot be posa sible for us to avoid feeling, that no thoughts, affections, or conduct, can become those who worship him, but such as are accompanied by solemn awe, and profound Reverence for his perfect character; that, as his name is Holy and Reverend, so his worship should be ever celebrated with godly Fear.
2dly. Religious Reverence is peculiarly the means of exciting, and keeping alive, an abhorrence of sin.
The Fear of the Lord, says Solomon, or rather Christ, speaking by Solomon, is to hate evil; Prov. viii. 13: that is, it is a part of the very nature of religious Reverence to hate evil. The transgression of the wicked saith in my heart, there is no fear of God before his eyes.
In this passage the Psalmist declares, that the transgression of the wicked proved to his satisfaction, that there was no fear of God before his eyes. Why? Plainly, because the wicked, if he feared God, would cease to transgress. Of Job it is said, He feared God, and eschewed evil. In this passage we are directly taught, that he eschewed evil because he feared God. After God appeared to him with awful glory and majesty, his views of the hatefulness and vileness of his sins were exceedingly enhanced by the clear apprehensions, which he entertained of the supreme greatness and excellency of his Maker. His reverential awe of God on the one hand, and his abhorrence of himself and his sins on the other, are very forcibly exhibited in his own language. Behold I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand
upon my mouth. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
It hardly needs to be observed, that nothing can impress on our minds the odiousness of sin in such a manner, as clear and affecting views of the Purity of Jehovah, and the Reverence for him, with which these views are attended; or, in better language, of which these views constitute an essential part. So entirely are mankind, at least those of them who speak our language, sensible of this; that, in judicial processes against criminals, the law constantly assigns as a primary cause of their commission of crimes, that they had not the fear of God before their eyes. This is the strongest of all human testimony, that the Fear of God is the great and controlling cause of hating and abstaining from iniquity.
3dly. Religious Reverence is the great source of Reformation.
The Fear of the Lord, says Solomon, is to hate evil. Prov. viii. 13. In this declaration we are taught, that Reverence to God is so extensively the cause of departing from evil, that it was proper, in the view of the Spirit of God, to declare it to be the same thing with departure from evil. Substantially in the same manner is this truth exhibited in the text; where the Fear of the Lord is declared to be Wisdom, and departure from evil Understanding. By wisdom and understanding, here, it is scarcely necessary to say, the same thing is intended : and this, in the former part of the verse, is declared to be the Fear of the Lord; and in the latter, Departure from evil. Fear the Lord, says Solomon to his Son, Prov. iii. 7, and depart from evil. And again, Prov. xiv. 27, The Fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death. And again, in language somewhat different, Prov. xiii. 14, The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death. Here religious Reverence, styled in the former passage the fear of the Lord, and in the latter the law of the wise, is declared to be a fountain of life, sending forth unceasing streams, of which he who drinks, will be both enabled, and inclined, to depart from the snares of death : that is, from sins, which are fatal snares to all who practise them.
But to depart from evil is, necessarily, to do good. Moral beings are by their nature always employed in obedience, or disobedience. He therefore, who ceases to do evil, invariably learns to do well; is invariably employed in the great business of reforming his life, and endeavouring to glorify his Creator.
4thly. Religious Reverence is peculiarly the source of rectitude in our dispositions, and conduct, towurds mankind.
There was, saith our Saviour, in a certain city, a judge, who nezther feared God, nor regarded man. This account of the subject is metaphysically, and universally, just. He, who does not fear God, will not regard man in any such manner, as reason acknowledges to consist with moral rectitude, and as all men declare to be due from man to man. He may indeed, like the unjust judge in this parable, for the sake of freeing himself from importunity and trouble, for the sake of reputation, convenience, gain, or some other selfish object, act with propriety in his external conduct; but he will never possess any real rectitude, and cannot therefore act under its influence.
When Jehoshaphat set Judges in the land, he said unto them, Take heed what ye do : for ye judge not for man, but for the
Lord ; who is with you in the judgment. Wherefore, now, let the Fear of the Lord be upon you ; take heed, and do it: for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God; nor respect of persons ; nor taking of gifts. These are obviously the best rules ever given to judicial officers for the direction of their moral conduct; and such judges, and such rulers, as have accorded with them, have undoubtedly been
the best, when prejudice has not operated in a peculiar manner, which the world has ever seen. In all these, the Fear of God was the controlling principle. Concerning those rulers, whose
, conduct is recorded in the Scriptures, the subject does not admit of a doubt: for the divine writers have marked each case so strong. ly, as to put it wholly out of question. Concerning such men, as Moses, Samuel, Josiah, and Nehemiah, no man is at å loss. There is as little uncertainty concerning Alfred the Great, Sir Matthew Hale, and many others, in later times. All these, and all other men of a similar character, were supremely controlled in their conduct by the Fear of God; the great thing insisted on by Jehoshaphat in these directions.
Nehemiah, particularly, informs us concerning this subject, as it respected himself. The former Governors, says he, who have been before me, were chargeable unto the people; and had taken of them bread and wine ; besides forty shekels ; Yea, even their Servants bear rule over the people : but so did not I, because of the Fear of God.
Of Hananiah, the Ruler of the Palace, this eminently worthy man says, chapter vii. 2, that he gave him charge over Jerusalem, because he was a faithful man, and feared God above many. Of Cornelius it is said, he feared God, and gave much alms to the people. Of Obadiah, the governor of Ahab's house, it is declared, that he feared the Lord greatly; and that he had thus feared him from his youth. As a proof, as well as consequence, of this spirit, we are informed, that, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, he took an hundred and fifty of them, and hid them in caves ; where he kept, and fed them, at the daily hazard of his life. By St. Paul, religious Reverence is alleged as the ground, and directory, of Christian submission to lawful authority, Eph. v. 21; and by Malachi, chapter iïi. 16, as the cause of Christian fellowship.
Thus we find this spirit extending its benign influence to the various branches of Christian duty; and proving a peculiarly efficacious cause of zeal, and exemplariness, in all those parts of a religious life, which contribute, immediately, to the well-being of our fellow-men.
5thly. Religious Reverence is the foundation of peculiar Blessings to the present world.
The secret of the Lord, says the Psalmist, is with them that fear him. Ps. xxv. 14. He hath given meat to them that fear him. Ps. cxi. 5. There is no want to them that fear him. Ps. xxxiv.
9. By the fear of the Lord are riches and honour. Prov. xxi. 4. The angel of the Lord encampeth about them that fear him. Ps. xxxiv. 7. He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him. Ps. cxlv. 19. These promises, and these declarations, furnish complete security to those who fear God, that they shall really want no good thing : Vol. III.
that their circumstances shall be so ordered, as that all things shall work together for their good. They may indeed be troubled, and persecuted, and even cut off by a violent death. But these evils will take place, only when they become necessary; and when they themselves, as well as others, will become more happy, in the end, by means of them, than they could be without them. Ordinarily, they will find, in times both of adversity and prosperity, ways, and those very numerous, in which God will show himself more attentive to their real good, than they themselves were ; and, even in this life, will often see, that the most untoward events, as they seemed while passing, are such as they themselves, while taking a retrospective view, would choose to have had befal them. At the same time, all their enjoyments are blessings; and not, like those of the wicked, enjoyments merely. At the same time also, while the sufferings of the wicked are punishments and curses, the afflictions of such as fear God are only blessings in disguise.
6thly. Religious Reverence is especially the means of securing eternal life.
Surely, saith the Psalmist, his salvation is nigh to them that fear him. Ps. lxxxv. 9. I know, saith Solomon, it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him. But it shall not be well with the wicked, because he feareth not before God. Eccles. viii. 12, 13. And again; The Fear of the Lord tendeth to life. Prov. xix. 23. And again ; The Fear of the Lord is a fountain of life ; and to sum up all in a single declaration, The wicked are declared by Christ in the character of Wisdom, Prov. i. 29, to be finally given over to destruction because they hated knowledge, and did not choose the Fear of the Lord. But it is unnecessary to spend time, any further, in illustrating a doctrine, which necessarily follows from the observations, made under the preceding heads.
REMARKS. From these observations Christians are taught, 1st. The supreme Importance of the Fear of God. This affection is indispensable to the acceptableness of their worship, and their obedience; to their hatred of sin ; their safety in temptation ; and the amendment of their lives. It is a primary ingredient of their piety. It is the well-spring of their benevolence, justice, faithfulness, and brotherly love ; of rectitude in them, when rulers ; of submission, good order, and public spirit, when subjects. It is indispensable to their enjoyment of the favour of God in this life, and his everlasting kindness in the life to come. Higher motives to the attainment of any character cannot be alleged. Let every Christian, then, cherish and cultivate religious Reverence in his own mind. Let him often, and habitually, bring before his eyes the awful Being, who is the only object of
this affection, and whose sole prerogative it is to demand it of his
Let him fasten his views on the presence and greatness, the purity and glory, of Jehovah; and solemnly discern, and confess, that he himself is nothing, less than nothing, and vanity. In the incommunicable splendour, in the incomprehensible majesty, of the Uncreated Mind, all created glory is lost and forgotten. In the presence of the Sun of Righteousness every star hides its diminished head. Before his beams - the lustre of angels, and archangels, fades into nothing. In the presence of his purity the heavens themselves, spotless as they are to a created eye, are unclean. What then is man, that God should be mindful of him; or the son of man, that he should visit him? What indeed are we; what indeed must we be; in the presence of such a being as this?
Such thoughts as these ought ever to be present in the mind. Whenever it turns its views towards the Creator, those views ought, from motives of interest and duty alike, to be, invariably, of the most reverential kind. They most become the character of God; are eminently pleasing in his sight; constitute the best and happiest frame of mind; and most advantageously inflưence us in all our duty.
2dly. From these observations it is clear, that habitual Reverence to God is one of the best Evidences of Piety.
After what has been said, this truth needs no further illustration. All that is necessary to add is, that we are bound to examine ourselves accordingly.
3dly. As Reverence to God is the most profitable, so Irreverence is the most dangerous, habit, which can easily be conceived.
As I shall have occasion to dwell particularly on this subject, when I come to consider the third command in the decalogue; I shall not dwell upon it here. It is sufficient to observe at the present time, that every person, who is the subject of this character, ought to tremble at the danger, to which he is daily exposing himself. There is no manner, in which he can more effectually harden his own heart, or provoke the anger of God.
4thly. He, who does not reverence God habitually, is here taught, that he is wholly destitute of religion.
There is a state of mind, in such persons especially as have been taught to fear God from the morning of life, and have retained a strong influence of these impressions, which it is often difficult to distinguish from evangelical Reverence. But there is also a state of mind very extensively existing, which is wholly destitute of this attribute, and which, if examined with an ordinary degree of honesty and candour, may be easily discerned. No infidel, no profane person, no mere sensualist, or worldling, needs to hesitate, for a moment, in determining that he is destitute of Reverence to God, and consequently of Religion. Of course, he ought to