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HAVING showed you what godly fear flows from, I come now to show you what proceeds or flows from the godly fear of God, when it is seated in the heart of man. 1. There flows from this godly fear, a devout reverence of God. David says, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of saints,” Psalm 89:7. God, as I have already showed you, is the proper object of godly fear; it is his person and majesty that this fear always causeth the eye of the soul to be upon. “Behold,” said David, “as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us,” <19B302> Psalm 113:2.
Nothing aweth the soul that feareth God so much as doth the glorious majesty of God. His person is above all things feared by them; “I fear God,” said Joseph, Genesis 42:18; that is, more than any other; I stand in awe of him; he is my dread, he is my fear; I do all my actions as in his presence, as in his sight; I reverence his holy and glorious majesty, doing all things as with fear and trembling before him.
This fear also makes them have a very great reverence of his word; for that also, I told you, was the rule of their fear. “Princes,” said David, “have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word,” <19B9161> Psalm 119:161.
There flows from this godly fear tenderness of God’s glory. This fear, I say, will cause a man to afflict his soul, when he seeth that by professors dishonor is brought to the name of God, and to his word. “Who would not fear thee, O King of nations?” said Jeremiah, “for to thee doth it appertain,” Jeremiah 10:7 He speaks of it as being affected with that dishonor, that by the body of the Jews was continually brought to his name, his word, and ways; he also speaks it of a hearty wish that they once would be otherwise minded. The same saying, in effect, hath also John in the Revelation; “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name?” Revelation 15:4; clearly concluding, that godly fear produceth a godly tenderness of God’s glory in the world, for that appertaineth unto him: that is, it is due unto him, it is a debt which we owe unto him. “Give unto the Lord,” said David, “the glory due unto his name,” Psalm 29:2. Now, if there be begotten in the heart of the godly, by this grace of fear, a godly tenderness of the glory of God, then it follows, of consequence, that where those that have this fear of God, do see his glory diminished by the wickedness of the children of men, there they are grieved and deeply distressed “Rivers of waters,” said David, “run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law,” <19B9136> Psalm 119:136 Let me give you for this these following instances.
How was David provoked when Goliath defied the God of Israel! Samuel 17:45, 46. Also, when others reproached God, he tells us that such reproach was even as a sword in his bones, Psalm 42:10. David, also, for the love that he had to the glory of God’s word, ran the hazard and reproach of all the mighty people, Psalm 89:50. How was Hezekiah afflicted when Rabshakah railed upon his God! Isaiah 37:3,4. How tender of the glory of God were Eli, Daniel, and the three children, in their day! Eli died with fear and trembling of heart when he heard that the ark of God was taken, 1 Samuel 4:18. Daniel ran the danger of the lions’ mouths, for the tender love that he had to the word and worship of God, Daniel 6:10-16. The three children ran the hazard of a burning fiery furnace, rather than they would dare to dishonor the way of their God, Daniel 3:13-30.
This, therefore, is one of the fruits of this godly fear, namely, a reverence for his name, and tenderness of his glory. 2. There flows from this godly fear, watchfulness: as it is said of Solomon’s servants, they watched about his bed because of fear in the night, Sol. Song, Song of Solomon 3:7; so it may be said of those that have this godly fear, it makes them a watchful people.
It makes them watch their mouths, and keep them also, sometimes as with a bit and bridle, that they offend not with their tongue, knowing that the tongue is apt, being an evil member, soon to catch the fire of hell, to the defiling of the whole body, James 3:2-10.
Thus this godly fear puts the soul upon its watch, lest from the heart within, or from the devil without, or from the world, or some other temptation, something should surprise, and overtake the child of God, to defile him, or to cause him to defile the ways of God, and so offend the saints, open the mouths of men, and cause the enemy to speak reproachfully of religion. 3. There flows from this fear a holy provocation to a reverential converse with saints in their religious and godly assemblies, for their further progress in the faith and way of holiness. “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another:” spake, that is of God, and his holy and glorious name, kingdom, and works, for their mutual edification. “And a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name,” Malachi 3:16.
The fear of the Lord in the heart, provoketh to this in all its acts, not only of necessity, but of nature; it is the natural effect of this godly fear, to exercise the church in the contemplation of God, together and apart. All fear, good and bad, hath a natural propensity in it to incline the heart to contemplate the object of fear, and though a man should labor to take off his thoughts from the object of his fear; whether that object were men, hell, devils, etc., yet do what he could, the next time his fear had any act in it, it would return again to its object. And so it is with godly fear, it will make a man speak of, and think upon the name of God reverentially. Yea, and exercise himself in the holy thoughts of him in such sort, that his soul shall be sanctified and seasoned with such meditations.
Indeed, holy thoughts of God, such as you see this fear doth exercise the heart withal, prepare the heart to and for God. This fear, therefore, is that David prayed for the people, when he said, “O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee,” 1 Chronicles 29:18. 4. There flows from this fear of God, great reverence of his majesty, in and under the use and enjoyment of God’s holy ordinances. His ordinances are his courts and palaces, his walks and places, where he giveth his presence to those that wait upon him in them, in the fear of his name. And this is the meaning of the apostle; “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied,” Acts 9:31. “And walking,” — that word intends their use of the ordinances of God. “Walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless,” Luke 1:6; this, in Old Testament language, is called treading God’s courts, and walking in his paths. This, saith the text, they did here “in the fear of the Lord;” that is, in a great reverence of that God whose ordinances they were. “Ye shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary:
It is one thing to be conversant in God’s ordinances, and another to be conversant in them with a due reverence of the majesty and name of that God whose ordinances they are; it is common for men to do the first, but none can do the last without this fear. “In thy fear,” said David, “will I worship,” Psalm 5:7. It is this fear of God, therefore, from whence doth flow that great reverence that his saints have in them, of his majesty in and under the use and enjoyment of God’s holy ordinances; and consequently, that makes our service in the performance of them acceptable to God through Christ.
For God expects that we serve him with fear and trembling, and it is odious among men for a man, in the presence or about the service of his prince, to behave himself lightly, and without due reverence of that majesty, in whose presence and about whose business he is: and if so, how can their service to God have anything like acceptance from the hand of God, that is done, not in, but without the fear of God! This service must needs be an abomination to him, and these servers must come off with rebuke. 5. There flows from this godly fear of God self-denial; that is, an holy abstaining from those things that are either unlawful or inexpedient; according to that text of Nehemiah; “The former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God,” Nehemiah 5:15.
Here now was self-denial, he would not do as they did that went before him, neither himself, nor should his servants; but what was it that put him upon these acts of self-denial? The answer is, the fear of God: “But so did not I, because of the fear of God.”
Now, whether by the fear of God, in this place, be meant his word, or the grace of fear in his heart, may perhaps be a scruple to some, but in my judgment the text must have respect to the latter, namely, to the grace of fear, for without that be indeed in the heart, the word will not produce that good self-denial in us, of which here you find this good man lived in the daily exercise.
The fear of God, therefore, was the cause of his self-denial, was this grace of fear in his heart. This made him to be, as was said before, tender of the honor of God, and of the salvation of his brother: yea, so tender, that rather than he would give an occasion to the weak to stumble, or be offended, he would even deny himself of that, which others never hesitated to do. Paul, also, through the sanctifying operations of this fear of God in his heart, did deny himself even of lawful things, for the profit of his brother. “I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend,” 1 Corinthians 8:13; that is, if his eating of it would make his brother to offend.
Men that have not this fear of God in them, will not, cannot deny themselves, (of love to God, and the good of the weak, who are subject to stumble at indifferent things;) but where this grace of fear is, there follows self-denial; there men are tender of offending, and count that it far better becomes their profession to be of a self-denying, condescending conversation and temper, than to stand sturdily to their own liberty in things inexpedient, whoever is offended thereat.
This grace of fear, therefore, is a very excellent thing, because it yieldeth such excellent fruit as this. For this self-denial, of how little esteem soever it be with some, yet the want of it, if the words of Christ be true, as they are, takes quite away, from even a professor, the very name of a disciple, Matthew 10:37,38; Luke 14:27.
They, says Nehemiah, lorded it over the brethren, but so did not I. They took bread and wine, and forty shekels of silver of them, but so did not I: yea, even their servants bare rule over the people, but so did not I, because of the fear of God,” Nehemiah 5:15. 6. There flows from this godly fear of God, “singleness of heart,” Colossians 3:22. Singleness of heart both to God and man; singleness of heart, that is it which, in another place, is called sincerity, and godly simplicity; and it is this, when a man doth a thing simply for the sake of him, or of the law, that commands it, without respect to this by-end, or that desire of praise or of vain-glory from others. I say, when our obedience to God is done by us simply, or alone for God’s sake, for his word’s sake, without any regard to this or that by-end or reserve, “not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but with singleness of heart fearing God.” A man is more subject to nothing than to swerve from singleness of heart in his service to God, and obedience to his will.
How doth the Lord charge the children of Israel, and all their obedience, and that for seventy years together, with the want of singleness of heart towards him! “When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?” Zechariah 7:5,6.
They wanted this singleness of heart in their fasting and in their eating, in their mourning and in their drinking; they had double hearts in what they did. They did not as the apostle bids, “Whether therefore yet eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” 1 Corinthians 10:31.
And the reason of their want of this thing was, they wanted this fear of God; for that, as the apostle here saith, effecteth singleness of heart to God, and makes a man, as John said of Gaius, do faithfully whatever he doth, 3 John 1:5. And the reason is, as hath been already urged, for that grace of fear of God retaineth, and keepeth upon the heart, a reverential and awful sense of the dread majesty and all-seeing eye of God; also a due consideration of the day of account before him: it likewise maketh his service sweet and pleasing, and fortifies the soul against all discouragements. By this means, I say, the soul in its service to God or man, is not so soon captivated, as where there is not this fear; but through and by it its service is accepted, being single, sincere, simple, and faithful; when others, with what they do, are cast into hell for their hypocrisy, for they mix not what they do with godly fear.
Singleness of heart in the service of God is of such absolute necessity, that without it, as I have hinted, nothing can be accepted, because where that is wanting, there wanteth love to God, and to that which is true holiness indeed. It was this singleness of heart that made Nathanael so honorable in the eyes of Jesus Christ. “Behold,” said he, “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile,” John 1:47. And it was the want of it that made him so much abhor the Pharisees. They wanted sincerity, simplicity, and godly sincerity in their souls, and so became an abhorrence in his esteem. Now, I say this golden grace, singleness of heart, flows from this godly fear of God. 7. There flows from this godly fear of God, compassion and bowels to those of the saints that are in necessity and distress. This is manifest in good Obadiah. It is said of him, that he “took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water,” 1 Kings 18:4; and this was in the days when Jezebel, that tyrant, sought their lives to destroy them. But what was it that moved so upon his heart as to cause him to do this thing? why, it was this blessed grace of the fear of God. “Now Obadiah,” saith the text, “feared the Lord greatly: for it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.” This was charity to the distressed, even to the distressed for the Lord’s sake.
Had not Obadiah feared the Lord, yea, had he not greatly feared him, he would not have been able to do this thing, especially as the case then stood with him, and also with the church at that time; for then Jezebel sought to slay all that indeed feared the Lord; yea, and the persecution prevailed so much at that time, that even Elijah himself thought that she had killed all but him. But now, even now, the fear of God in this good man’s heart, put forth itself into acts of mercy though attended with so imminent danger.
See here, therefore, that the fear of God will put forth itself in the heart where God hath put it, to show kindness, and to have compassion upon the distressed servants of God, in the very neighborhood of Jezebel’s court; for Obadiah dwelt in Ahab’s house, and Jezebel was Ahab’s wife, and an horrible persecutor, as was said before: yet Obadiah would show mercy to the poor, because he feared God, yea, he would venture her displeasure, his place, and neck, and all, but he will be merciful to his brethren in distress.
Cornelius, also, being a man possessed with this fear of God, became a very free-hearted and open-handed man to the poor. He feared God, and gave much alms to the people. Indeed this fear, this godly fear of God, is an universal grace; it will stir up the soul unto all good duties. It is a fruitful grace, from it ever floweth abundance of excellent virtues, nor without it can there be any thing good, or done well that is done. 8. There flows from this fear of God, hearty, fervent, and constant prayer.
Did I say that hearty, fervent, and constant prayer, flowed from this fear of God? I will add, that if the whole duty, and the continuation of it, be not managed with this fear of God, it profiteth nothing at all. It is said of our Lord Jesus Christ himself, “He was heard in that he feared,” Hebrews 5:7. He prayed, then, because he feared, because he feared God, and therefore was his prayer accepted of him, even because he feared.
This godly fear is so essential to right prayer and right prayer is such an inseparable effect and fruit of this fear, that thou must have both or none; he that prayeth not, feareth not God; yet he that prayeth not fervently and frequently, feareth him not; and so he that feareth him not, cannot pray; for if prayer be the effect of this fear of God, then without this fear, prayer, fervent prayer, ceaseth. How can those pray, or make conscience of the duty, that fear not God? O prayerless man, thou fearest not God! Thou wouldest not live so long like a swine or a dog in the world as thou dost, if thou fearedst the Lord. 9. There floweth from this fear of God a readiness and willingness, at God’s call, to give up our best enjoyments to his disposal. This is evident in Abraham, who, at God’s call, without delay, rose early in the morning to offer up his only and well-beloved Isaac a burnt offering, in the place where God should appoint him.
It was a rare thing that Abraham did; and had he not had this rare grace, this fear of God, he would not, he could not, have done to God’s liking so wonderful a thing. It is true, the Holy Ghost also makes this service of Abraham to be the fruit of faith; “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,” Hebrews 11:17.
Aye, and without doubt, love unto God, in Abraham, was not wanting in this his service, nor was this grace of fear; nay, in the history where it is recorded, it is chiefly accounted for as the fruit of his godly fear, and that by an angel from heaven. “And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me,” Genesis 22:11,12.
Now I know it; now thou hast offered up thine only Isaac, thine all, at the bidding of thy God. Now I know it. The fear of God is not presently discerned in the heart and life of a man. Abraham had long before this done many a holy duty, and showed much willingness of heart to observe and do the will of God; yet thou find not, as I remember, that he had this testimony from heaven that he feared God till now: but now he has it, now he has it from heaven. “Now I know that thou fearest God.” Many duties may be done (though I do not say that Abraham did them) without the fear of God; but when a man shall not stick at, or withhold his darling from God, when called upon by God to offer it up unto him, that declareth, yea, and gives conviction to angels, that now he feareth God. 10. There floweth from this godly fear, humility of mind. This is evident, because, when the apostle cautions the Romans against the venom of spiritual pride, he directs them to the exercise of this blessed grace of fear as its antidote. “Be not high-minded,” saith he, “but fear,” Romans 11:20.
Pride, spiritual pride, which is here set forth by the word “high-minded,” is a sin of a very high and damnable nature; it was the sin of the fallen angels, and is that which causeth men to fall into the same condemnation; “Lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil,” 1 Timothy 3:6.
Pride, I say, condemns a professor with the damnation of devils, with the damnation of hell, and therefore it is a deadly, deadly sin. Now, against this deadly sin is set the grace of humility, that comely garment, for so the apostle calls it, saying, “Be clothed with humility,” 1 Peter 5:5. But the question is now, How we should attain to, and live in the exercise of this blessed and comely grace? to which the apostle answers, Fear: be afraid with godly fear; and thence will flow humility. “Be not high-minded, but fear;” that is, fear, or be continually afraid and jealous of yourselves, and of your own naughty hearts; also fear lest, at some time or other, the devil, your adversary, should get advantage of you. Fear, lest, by forgetting what you are by nature, you also forget the need that you have of continual pardon, support, and supplies from the Spirit of grace, and so grow proud of your own abilities, or of what you have received of God, and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Fear, and that will make you little in your own eyes, keep you humble, put you upon crying to God for protection, and upon lying at his footstool for mercy; that will also make you have low thoughts of your own parts, your own doings, and cause you to prefer your brother before yourself, and so you will walk in humiliation, and be continually under the teachings of God, and under his conduct in your way.
From this grace of fear, then, flows this excellent and comely thing humility; yea, it also is maintained by this fear. Fear takes off a man from trusting to himself; it puts a man upon trying of all things; it puts a man upon desiring counsel and help from heaven; it makes a man ready and willing to hear instruction, and makes a man walk lowly, softly, and so securely in the way. 11. There flows from this grace of fear, hope in the mercy of God. “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy,” <19E711> Psalm 147:11.
The latter part of the text is an explanation of the former; as if the psalmist had said, Those are the men that fear the Lord, even those that hope in his mercy; for true fear produceth hope in God’s mercy. And it is further manifest thus: — Fear, true fear of God inclineth the heart to a serious inquiry after that way of salvation which God himself hath prescribed; now the way that God hath appointed, by the which the sinner is to obtain the salvation of his soul, is his mercy as set forth in the word; and godly fear hath special regard to the word. To this way, therefore, the sinner with this godly fear submits his soul, rolls himself upon it, and so is delivered from that death into which others, for want of this fear of God, do headlong fall.
It is, as I also hinted before, the nature of godly fear to be very much putting the soul upon the inquiry which is, and which is not the thing approved of God, and accordingly to embrace it, or shun it. Now, I say, this fear, having put the soul upon a strict and serious inquiry after the way of salvation, at last it finds it to be by the mercy of God in Christ; therefore this fear putteth the soul upon hoping also in him for eternal life and blessedness; by which hope he doth not only secure his soul, but becomes a person in whom God delights. “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy,” <19E711> Psalm 147:11.
Besides, this godly fear carrieth in its self-evidence that the state of the sinner is happy, because possessed with this happy grace. Therefore, as John saith, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren,” 1 John 3:14.
So here, “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.” If I fear God, and if my fearing of him is a thing in which he taketh such pleasure, then may I boldly venture to roll myself for eternal life into the bosom of his mercy, which is Christ.
This fear also produceth hope; if, therefore, poor sinner, thou knowest thyself to be one that is possessed with this fear of God, suffer thyself to be persuaded therefore to hope in the mercy of God for salvation, for the Lord takes pleasure in thee; and it delights him to see thee hope in his mercy. 12. There floweth from this godly fear of God, an honest and conscientious use of all those means which God hath ordained that we should be conversant in for our attaining of salvation. Faith and hope in God’s mercy secureth our justification and hope, and, as you have heard, they flow from this fear. But now, besides faith and hope, there is a course of life in those things in which God hath ordained us to have our conversation, without which there is no eternal life. “Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life,” Romans 6:22; and again, “Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord,” Hebrews 12:14. Not that faith and hope are deficient, if they be right, but they are both of them counterfeit when not attended with a reverent use of all the means: upon the reverent use of which the soul is put by this grace of fear. “Wherefore, my beloved,” said Paul, “as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” Philippians 2:12.
There is a faith and hope of mercy, that may deceive a man, because they are alone, and not attended with those companions that accompany salvation; but now this godly fear carries in itself, not only a moving of the soul to faith and hope in God’s mercy, but an earnest provocation to the holy and reverent use of all the means that God has ordained for a man to have his conversation in, in order to his eternal salvation. “Work out your salvation with fear.” Not that work is meritorious, or such that can purchase eternal life; for eternal life is obtained by hope in God’s mercy; but this hope, if it be right, is attended with this godly fear, which fear putteth the soul upon a diligent use of all those means that may tend to the strengthening of hope, and so to the making of us holy in all manner of conversation, that we may be “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” For hope purifieth the heart, if fear of God be its companion, and so maketh a man a vessel of mercy prepared unto glory.
Paul bids Timothy to flee pride, covetousness, doting about questions, and the like, and to “follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life,” 1 Timothy 6:11,12.
So Peter says, “Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. — Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fail: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 1:5-11.
The sum of all which is, that which was mentioned before, namely, to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. For none of these things can be conscientiously done but by and with the help of this blessed grace of fear. 13. There flows from this godly fear a great delight in the holy commands of God; that is, a delight to be comformable unto them. “Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments,” <19B201> Psalm 112:1. This confirmeth that which was said before, namely, that this fear provoketh to a holy and reverent use of the means; for that cannot be, when there is not an holy, yea, a great delight in the commandments.
Wherefore this fear maketh the sinner to abhor that which is sin, because that is contrary to the object of his delight. A man cannot delight himself at the same time in things directly opposite one to another, as sin, and the holy commandment are; therefore Christ saith of the servant, he “cannot love God and mammon;” if he cleaves to the one, he must hate and despise the other: there cannot, at the same time, be service to both, because that they are at enmity one with the other: so are sin and the commandment; therefore, if a man delighteth himself in the commandment, he hateth that which is opposite, which is sin; how much more when he greatly delighteth in the commandment!
Now, this holy fear of God taketh the heart and affections from sin, and setteth them upon the holy commandment; therefore such a man is rightly esteemed blessed. For no profession makes a man blessed, but that which is accompanied with an alienation of the heart from sin; nor doth any thing do that when this holy fear is wanting. It is from this fear, then, that love to and delight in the holy commandment flow; and so by that the sinner is kept from those falls and dangers of miscarrying that other professors are so subject to: he greatly delights in the commandment. 14. There floweth from this fear of God, enlargement of heart. “Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged,” Isaiah 60:5. “Thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged;” enlarged to Godward, enlarged to his ways, enlarged to his holy people, enlarged in love after the salvation of others. Indeed, when this fear of God is wanting, though the profession be ever so famous, the heart is shut up, and straitened, and nothing is done in that princely free spirit, which is called “the spirit of the fear of the Lord,” Isaiah 11:2. But with grudging, legally, or with desire of vain glory; this enlargedness of heart is wanting, for that flows from this fear of the Lord.