Page images

thofe dangers the prophet from the Lord's own mouth had threatened them with: but, to take them off from this finful and inordinate dependence on the creature, he tells them, ver. 3. "Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses “flesh, and not fpirit: when the Lord fhall ftretch forth his "hand, both he that helpeth fhall fall, and he that is holpen fhall fall down, and they fhall fall together." q. d. It is a finful and dangerous mistake for one creature, to give that truft and dependence to another creature, which is due only to God, to look upon men as it they were gods, and horfes as if they were fpirits: all creatures, even the ftrongeft, are but as the hop, the vine, or the ivy; if they clafp about the pole, the wall or the oak, they may be fupported, as you may alfo by leaning upon God; but if they depend and entangle themselves one upon another, as you and the Egyptians do, you shall fail, and fall all together.

And, as one creature is apt inordinately and finfully thus to truft and lean upon another, fo there is as great a profaneness in the creatures inordinately to fear and dread each other, as if the creature feared were rather a god than a man, rather a spirit than flesh; and thus our fear magnifies and exalts the creature, and puts it, as it were, into the room and place of God. This was the fin which God rebuked in his own people, Ifa. li. 12, 13. "I, even I, am he that comforteth thee: Who art thou, "that thou fhouldst be afraid of a man that fhall die, and of "the foh of man who fhall be made as grafs? and forgetteft "the Lord thy maker," &c. See how fear exalts man, and depreffeth God; it thinks upon the noxious power of men fo much, that it forgets the faving power of God, as if that flood for nothing: thus a mortal worm, that fhall perish as the grafs, eclipfes the glory of the great God, that fretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth.

And this was the evil against which Chrift cautioned his own difciples, in Matth. x. 28. "Fear not them which kill the body, "but are not able to kill the foul; but rather fear him, which is "able to deftroy both foul and body in hell;" q. d. Have a care you never fear any man, be he armed with never fo much power and rage; as if the power of making or marring you for ever were in his hands, as if you lay at the feet of his will and pleasure to be faved or ruined for ever: fear not him that can only touch your bodies, as if he could damn your fouls; inveft not any creature with the fovereign and incommunicable power of God.

4. The finfulness of fear confifts in the diftracting influence

[ocr errors]

it hath upon the hearts of men, whereby it discomposeth and unfits them for the discharge of their duties.

Fear fometimes puts men into fuch an hurry, and their thoughts into fuch disorder, that for the present they have scarce any fuc cour or relief from their graces, or from their reafon; for under an extraordinary fear both grace and reafon, like the wheels of a watch, wound above its due height, ftand still, and have no motion at all. It is rare to find a man of that largeness and conftancy of heart and mind, in a day of fear, that was found in Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. xx. 2, 3. "Then there came fome that told Jehoshaphat, faying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea, on this fide Syria, and behold they be in Hazazon-Tamar, which is Engedi; and Jehofhaphat feared, and fet himself to feek the Lord." He fet himself, i. e. he compofed and fixed his heart for prayer in the time of fo great a fright, and terrible alarm: but it is rare to find fuch conftancy and evenness of mind as this; in like cafes it is with most in great frights, as the prophet describes the condition of the Jews, Ifa. xxii. 2, 3. when the city of Jerufalem was befieged, and the enemy came under the walls of it; that which a little before was the joyous city, or as fome read, the revelling city, is now in fuch a panic fear, that it is full of ftirs and tumults, fome run up to the tops of the houses, either to hide or bewail themfelves, or take a view of the dreadful enemy without; others prevent the fword of the enemy, and die by fear before-hand, their own apprehenfions of misery killed them before the fword of any other enemy once touched them; but you read of none that ran into their closets to feek the Lord; the city was full of stirs, but none of prayers, alas, fear made them cry to the mountains, rather than to God, ver, 5. The best men find it hard to keep their thoughts from wandering, and their minds from distraction, in the greatest calm of peace, but a thousand times harder in the hurries and tumults of fear.

5. The finfulness of fear confifts in the power it hath to dif pole and incline men to the use of finful means to put by their danger, and to caft them into the hands and power of temptation. "The fear of man bringeth a fnare," Prov. xxix. 25. or puts and lays a fnare before him: Satan spreads the net, and fear, like the ftalking-horfe, drives men right into it. It was fear which drew Abraham, that great believer, into the snare of diffimulation, to the great difparagement of religion; for it was somewhat an odd fight to fee Abimelech, an Heathen, fo schooling an Abraham for it, as he did, Gen. xx. 9. And for

the fame evil you find God chiding his people, in Ifa. Ivii. 11. "And of whom haft thou been afraid, or feared, that thou "haft lied, and hast not remembered me?" There is a double lie occafioned by fear, one in words, and another in deeds: hypocrify is a lie done, a practical lie, and our church-history abounds with fad examples of diffimulation through fear: it is Satan's great engine to make his temptations victorious and fuccefsful with men.

Sect. III. There is an holy and laudable fear, a fear which is our treasure, not our torment; the chief ornament of the soul, its beauty and perfection, not its infelicity or fin, viz. the aw ful filial fear of God; natural fear is a pure and fimple paffion of the foul; finful fear is the disordered and corrupt paffion of the foul; but this is the natural paffion fanctified, and thereby changed and baptized into the name and nature of a spiritual grace. This fear is alfo mentioned in my text, and prescribed as an antidote against finful fears; it devours carnal fears, as Mofes's ferpent did thofe of the enchanters. It is one of the foreft judgments to be in the fear of man day and night, Deut. xxviii. 65, 66, 67. and one of the sweetest mercies to be in the fear of God all the day long, Prov. xxiii. 17. The fear of man fhortens our days, Ifa. xxii. 34. but the fear of the Lord prolongeth our days, Prov. x. 27. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, Prov. xiv. 27. But the fear of man a fountain of mischiefs and miferies: By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil, Prov. xvi. 6. but, by the fear of man, men run themselves into evil, Prov. xxix. 25.

This fear is a gracious habit or principle planted by God in the foul, whereby be foul is kept under an holy awe of the eye · of God, and from thence is inclined to perform and do what pleaseth him, and to sbun and avoid whatsoever he forbids and


1. It is planted in the foul as a permanent and fixed habit; it is not of the natural growth and production of man's heart, but of fupernatural infufion and implantation, Jer. xxxii. 40. "I will put my fear into their inward parts." To fear man is natural, but to fear God is wholly fupernatural.


2. This gracious fear puts the foul under the awe of God's eye, Pfal. cxix. 161. "My heart ftandeth in awe of thy "word." 'Tis the reproach of the fervants of men to be eyefervants, but it is the praife and honour of God's fervants to be fo.

3. This refpect to the eye of God, inclines them to perform and do whatsoever pleaseth him, and is commanded by him:

Hence, fearing God, and working righteoufnefs, are connected and linked together, Acts x. 35. If we truly fear God, we dare not but do the things he commands; and if his fear be exalted in our hearts to an high degree, it will enable us to obey him in duties accompanied with deepest felf-denial, Gen. xxii. 12. "Now I know thou feareft God, seeing thou haft not withheld "thy son, thine only fon from me.”

4. This fear engageth, and in fome degree enableth the foul, in which it is, to fhun and avoid whatsoever is difpleafing to God, and forbidden by him; in this Job difcovered himself a true fearer of God, he would not touch what God had forbid. den, and therefore was honoured with this excellent character, "He was one that feared God, and eschewed evil," Job i. 3. And thus of the feveral kinds of fear.


Shewing the various ufes of Fear, both natural, finful, and religious, in the government of the world by Providence.

HAVING taken a brief view of the feveral kinds and forts

of fear that are found among men, our next work will be to open the ufes of them in the government of this world; for one way or other they all fubferve the most wife and holy purposes of God therein. And we will firft enquire into

1. The use of natural fear.

Which if we well confider, it will be found exceeding neceffary and useful to make man a governable creature by law, and confequently the order, comfort and tranquillity of the world neceffarily depend upon it. How immorigerous and intractable would the corruptions of man's nature make him, uncapable of any moral reftraint from the most flagitious and barbarous crimes, had not God planted fuch a paffion as this in his nature, which, like a bridle, curbs in the corrupt propenfions thereof. If fear did not clap its manacles and fetters upon the wild and boisterous lufts of men, they would certainly bear down all milder motives, and break loofe from all ingenuous bands of restraint; the world would inevitably be filled with diforders, tumults, rapines, thefts, murders, and all manner

* Fear is like a bridle, by which the horse is governed: if this paffion of fear is removed, all other restraints will be broken down. Labat, on Prov. xxix. 25.

of uncleanness and unrighteousness, nec hofpes ab hofpite tutus,
i. the lodger is not fafe from the perfon entertaining him;
† men would become like the fishes of the fea, as the prophet
complains, Habbak. i. 14. where the greater swallow up a mul-
titude of the smaller fry alive at one gulp; propriety could
not be maintained in the world, no man's perfon could be tafe
or inviolate; power and opportunity to do mifchief would
measure out to men their lot and inheritance, and confequent-
ly all focieties must disband and break up. We fay, and the
obfervation is fure, He that fears not his own, may cafily be
mafier of another man's life. It is the law, and fear of pu-
nishment, that keeps the world in order: men are afraid to do
evil, because they are afraid to fuffer it; they see the law hath
infeparably linked penal and moral evils together; if they will
prefume upon the one, they must neceffarily pull the other upon
them too; and this keeps them in fome order and decorum:
there would be no order or fecurity without law; but if laws
had not annexed penalties to enforce them, and give them their
fanction, as good there were no laws; they would have no
more power to restrain the corruptions of mens hearts, than the
new cords or green withs had to bind Sampfon. And yet, if
the fevereft penalties in the world were annexed to, or appointed
by the law, they could fignify nothing to the ends of the govern-
ment without fear. This is that tender fenfible power, or paffion,
on which threatenings work, and fo brings men under moral
government and restraint, Rom. xiii. 3, 4. "Magiftrates are a
“terror to evil works; wilt thou not then be afraid of the
power? But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for he
"beareth not the fword in vain." And by this means a world
of evils is restrained and prevented in the world.

[ocr errors]

It was the custom and policy of the Perfians, (I cannot fay laudable) at the death of their kings, to give every man liberty for the space of five days, to do what he would; and fuch milchiefs were done every-where by the unbridled lufts of men in those days, that it made the people long and pray for the instalment of their next king: it exceedingly endeared government to them. Bleffed be God for law and government, for curbing by

+ An intelligent creature, as a creature, has a Superior, to whose providence and difpofal it is fubjected; and as it is intelligent, it is capable of moral government, by which it may be directed to good, and reftrained from evil; and fuch a law is abfolutely neceffary to it, that it may live fuitably to its nature, Suarez of laws, book 1. c. 3. VOL. IV.


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »