« PreviousContinue »
pardon for fuch an unusual presumption, as also your charity in
serve you, JOHN FLAVEL.
* * * *
ISA. viii. 12, 13, and part of ver. 14.
people sball fay a confederacy; neither fear ye [their fear]
dread; 14. And he fball be for a fanctuary
Wherein the text, and context, are opened, the doctrines propound.
ed, and the general method ftated.
Here is no more diversity found in the outward features,
than in the joward tempers and dispositions of men ; fome are as timorous as hares, and start at every souod, or yelp of a dog; others are bold as lions, and can face dangers with
out trembling; some fear more than they ought, and some be fore they ought, and others when they ought not at all. The carnal person fears man, pot God; the strong Christian fears God, not man ; the weak Christian fears mao too much, and God too little,
There is a fear which is the effect of fin, springing from guilt, and hurrying the soul into more guilt; and there is a fear which is the effect of grace, spriaging from our love to God, and his interest, and driving the foul to God in the way of duty.' The less fear any man hath, the more happiness, except it be of that fear which is our happiness, and our excellency.
It cannot be said of any man, as it is said of Leviathan, Job xli. 33
that he is made without fear; those that have moft fortitude, are not without some fears; and when the church is in the storms of perfecution, and almost covered with the waves, the stouteft passengers in it may suffer as much from this boisterous passion within, as from the storm without; and all for want of thoroughly believing, or not seasonably rememberiog that the Lord high admiral of all the ocean, and commander of all the winds, is on board the ship, to steer, and to preserve it in the storm.
A pregnant instance hereof, is furnished to our hands, in this context, where you find the best men trembling in expectation of the worst events both on the church in general, and them. felves in particular. “ Their hearts were moved like the trees of «C the wood shaken with the wind,” chap. vii. 2.
And, indeed, if their dangers were to be measured by fenfe only, their fears were not above the value of the cause, yea, their danger seemed to exceed their fears ; for it was the invasion of a foreign, and cruel enemy, even the Assyrian, who were to break in upon them, like a breach of the sea, and overflow the Jand of Immanuel. Ver. 7. “ The Lord bringeth up upon them “ the waters of the river, strong and many; even the king of
Assyria, and all his glory, and he shall come up over all his " channels, and go over all his banks.” And as the 7th verse resembles the enemy to waters, which quickly drown the country into which they break, fa the 8th verse tells you, how far they should prevail, and how near it should come to a general, and total ruin. “He shall pass through Judah, he shall over flow, " and go over; he shall reach even to the neck, and the Stretch.
ing out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy laod, O Imiçe manuel." All the body should be under water, except the capital city, which remained above water.
Having thus described the power, and success of the invading
enemy, in the 9th, and oth verses, he derides their plots, and combinations, assuring them, that although God, for just and holy ends, would permit them, for a time, to afflict his people; yet the issue of all their councils, and cruelties, should recoil upon themselves, and end in their own ruin and confufion.
And thereupon Isaiah is commanded to encourage the feeble, and trembling hearts of such as feared God, in those distracted, and frightful times, Ver. 11, 12, 13. “ The Lord spake unto me “ with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk " in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not a confederacy,” c.
God speaking to the prophet by a strong hand, imports, the Strong, and mighty impression that was made upoo his heart, by the spirit of prophecy; wherein the Lord did, as it were, lay his hand upon him, as a man doth upon one to whom he is about to impart fome special secret in a familiar way, g. d. Come hither, Isaiah, (drawiog bim to him at the same instant, with a friendly hand) take deep notice of what I am now to give thee in charge, both with respect to thyself, and my elect people that follow thee ; “Say not you a confederacy to all them “ to whom this people shall say a confederacy,” si. e.) let pot these frightful tidings work upon you as they do upon Ahaz, aod the common multitude with him, who are so terrified, aod scared, with the approaching dangers, that all their councils, thoughts, and studies, are taken up in preventing it, by making a confederacy, or league, with the Assyrian ; Hof. v. 13. or if that cannot be, then with some foreign power, that
secure them against the Assyrian : but their eyes are not at all to me for protection and deliverance; they expect more from Egypt, than from heaven; from a broken reed, than from the rock of
ages. Fear not you their fear; their fear drives them from God to the creaturc; it first distracts them, and then ensoares them.
But, on the contrary, see that thou, and all the faithful in the land with thee, do fanctify me in your hearts, and make me your fear, and your dread, (i, e.) rely upon me, by faith, in this day of trouble, and see that you give me the glory of my wisdom, power, and faithfulness, by relying intirely upon those my attributes engaged for you in so many tried promises; and do not betake yourselves to such fipful, and vain lifts, as those do, that have no interest in me, nor experience of me. This is the general scope, and design of the text, wherein, more particularly, you have,
1. An evil practice prohibited.
1. An evil practice prohibited, “ Fear oot their fear, deither “ be afraid.” This is that sinful priociple, which was but too apt to incline them to do as others did, to wit, to say a confederacy. Sinful fears are apt to drive the best men into finful compliances, and indirect shifts to help themselves.
Their fear may be underltood two ways ;
1. Subjectively, for the self-fame fear wherewith the carnal, and unbelieving Jews feared ; a fear that collaved them in bondage of spirit, a fear that is the fruit of lio, a fin in its own Dature, the cause of much sio to them, and a just punishment of God upon them for their other fins.
2. Efetively, Let not your fear produce in you fuch mif. chievous effects, as their fear doth ; to make you forget God, magnify the creature, prefer your own wits, and policies, to the Almighty Power, and never failing faithfulness of God: if you fay, but how shall we help it?
2. Why, in the next place, you have an effectual remedy prefcribed; but fanctify the Lord of holds himself, and let him he your fear, and your dread The fear of God will swallow up the fear of mao, a reverential awe, and dread of God will extinguish the Aavilha fear of the creature, as the suo-shine puts out fire, or as one fire fetches out another ; so will this fear fetch out that.
By fanctifying the Lord of hosts himself, is meant a due afcrip. tion of the glory of his sovereign power, wisdom, and faithfulness, not only io verbal, and professed acknowledgments thereof, but especially in those internal acts of affiance, resignation, and inlire dependance on him, which as they are the choicest ref. pects of the creature towards its God, and give him the greatest glory, so they are certainly the most beneficial, and comfortable acts we can perform, for our own peace, and safety, in times of danger.
If a man do really look to God in a day of trouble, and fear, as to the Lord of hofts, (i, e) one that governs all the creatures, and all their actions ; at whole beck, and
command, all the armies of heaven, and earth are, and then can rely upon the care, aod love of this God, as a child in danger of trouble reposes on, and commits himself, with greater confidence, to the care, and protection of his father : O what peace, what rest, must necessarily follow, upon this! Who would be afraid to pass through the
midit of armed troops, and regiments, whilft he knows that the general of that army is his own father? The more power this filial fear of God obtains in our hearts, the less will you dread the power of the creature. When the Dictator ruled at Rome, then all other officers ceased; and so, in a great measure, will all other fears, where the fear of God is dictator in the heart. This is the remedy.
3. And to enable us to apply this remedy in the worst, and most difficult times, we have a singular encouragement proposed : if we will thas fanctify the Lord of hosts himself, by such an acknowledgment of, and child-like dependance on him in times of danger, then he will be to us for a sanctuary, Afyli loco, (i.c.) he will surely protect, defend, and provide for us in the worst times, and cases *; then will the Lord “ create upon every
dwel. " ling-place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud, " and smoke by day, and the thining of a flaming fire by night: " for upon all the glory shall be a defence, and there shall be " a tabernacle for a shadow in the day-time, from the heat, " and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from the storm and “ from rain." Let the winds roar, the rain beat, the light. Diogs flash, you are in fafety, and have a good roof over your heads. Hence these two poiots of doctrine offer themselves : Doct. 1. That the best men are too apt to be overcome with
Navish fears, in times of imminent diArefs, and danger. Doct. 2. That the fear of God is the most effectual means to ex
tinguiso the finful fear of men, and to secure us from danger. These two points take in the substance, and scope of the text; but because I desiga to treat, in the following chapters, of the kinds, nature, ufes, causes, offeets, and remedies of fear, I shall Dot distinctly profecute them, but proceed in this order, in the following chapters.
Wherein the kinds, and nature of fear, are opened, and parti
cularly the distracting, Navi: fear of creatures. Sect. 1. HERE is a threefold fear found in man, viz.
1. Natural. 2. Sinful. 3. Religious fear. * Praeftabit vos inacceffos, et inviolabiles ab his regibus, He will render you inaccesible, and preserve you from being vir
olated by these kings.