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condly, an overawing sense of another's excellency. For modesty, or reverence, consists in these two things; in low and debasing thoughts of ourselves, and in a high esteem of others. This the Apostle exhorts us to in the text, by the word reverence. Whence observe this: That a due sense of our own vileness and of God's glorious majesty, is an excellent qualification in all our services to make them acceptable. Let us serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.
Thirdly. You have, in the text, the Motive, whereby the Apostle enforceth this exhortation : For our God is a consuming fire.
These words are cited out of Deut. iv. 24. where Moses, to bring the Israelites from idolatry, represents God to them as a jealous God and a consuming fire. And here the Apostle makes use of them, to compose men into a holy awe and reverence of God in serving him.
First. That an irreverent and fearless worship of the True God, provokes him and deserves his consuming wrath, as well as the idolatrous worship of a false god.
Moses makes use of the same words, to deter the Israelites from idolatry and worshipping a false god, as the Apostle makes use of, to excite us to a reverence and worshipping of the True God.
Secondly. Whereas it is said that our God is a consuming fire; observe, That our peculiar interest in God is no encouragement to cast off our most awful fear of God.
Our God is a consuming fire: though he hath laid down his enmity against us, yet he hath not laid down his sovereignty and majesty over us. Indeed these two expressions, our God, and a consuming fire, at first blush and glance seem to look strangely and wistly one upon another: but the Holy Ghost hath excellently tempered them. He is our God: this corrects that despairing fear, that otherwise would seize upon us, from the consideration of God as a consuming fire. And he is a consuming fire also : this corrects that presumptuous irreverence, that else the consideration of our interest in God might possibly embolden
1. You see now, from the explication of these words, what an excellent copious portion of Scripture I have unfolded unto you, wherein indeed is contained the true art and method of serving God acceptably. It is the fear of God, that quickens us to serve him: and this fear of God is pressed upon us and wrought in us, by two strong principles : we have a kingdom : and, what is strange too for those that have a kingdom of God, our God is a consuming fire, and therefore let us fear him.
Now this is such a principle, that carnal men are not apt to apprehend. They say, “ If we have a kingdom, that cannot be moved, why then should we fear? And, if God be such a consuming fire, why should we ever expect that kingdom, since we are but as stubble?” But our Apostle hath well conjoined them together : and, from that conjunction, I shall raise and prosecute this one PROPOSITION.
TAAT, EVEN THOSE, WHO STAND HIGHEST IN THE LOVE AND FAVOUR OF GOD, AND HAVE THE FULLEST ASSURANCE THEREOF, AND OF THEIR INTEREST IN HIM AS THEIR GOD, OUGHT, NOTWITHSTANDING, TO FEAR. HIM AS A SIN-REVENGING GOD AND A CONSUMING FIRE.
In prosecuting this Proposition, I shall shew how consistent the Grace of Fear is with other Graces of the Spirit : that it is no impediment to
i. In shewing you that the grace of Fear is NO IMPEDIMENT TO FULL ASSURANCE, I shall consider,
What Fear of God it is, that a believer ought always to
overawe his heart with. Upon what Grounds and Considerations he is thus to do.
What there is in a reconciled God, that may be a ground and motive to overawe our hearts with a fear of his majesty.
* I have borrowed this Division from a subsequent part of the Treatise, in order to render the Author's method obvious, which, for want of it in this place, was obscure. I have also, with the same view, made a slight alteration in his mode of expressing one or two of the subsequent heads. EDITOR.
1. What Fear of God it is, that a believer ought to overawe his heart with.
Fear, in general, is described to be a passion or an affection of the mind, arising from the apprehension of some great evil with difficulty avoidable.
And, as it is observed by some, it usually carries in it Three things. A doubtfulness or uncertainty of the event, what it may
prove: and this is always a torment to the mind. A terror, that ariseth from the greatness of the evil ap
prehended and feared. A careful flight and aversion of it. (1) There is, in Fear, a doubtfulness and uncertainty of the event. And this is a torment, when a man is racked in suspense
and doubt what to expect; whether or no the vengeance of God will not fall heavy upon him ; whether or no he be not fuel on which this consuming fire will for ever prey. Now this is not that fear, which the Apostle, in this text, exhorts us to serve God withal : no, to serve God with reverence and godly fear, is not to serve him with a doubtful, anxious, and solicitous fear of what the event may prove: nay, such a fear as this, is inconsistent with actual assurance; and those, who are perplexed with it, cannot say we have a kingdom, nor cannot fear their God as a consuming fire. There may be a genuine, awful fear of God as a consuming fire; where there is not the least doubt remaining concerning our final state; where the soul is fully assured, that God will be to him not a fire to consume him, but a sun to cherish him for ever. I will give you one or two remarkable scriptures to this purpose. In Heb. iv. 1. Let us fear, says the Apostle, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it: here the Apostle quickens them to the exercise of holiness, from the fear of falling short of heaven: yea, though they had assurance by God's promise of it; lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, yet you should fall short of it. And so the Apostle triumphs in his assurance, 2 Cor. v. 1. We know that.....we have a house.....eternal in the heavens : and yet, in verse 11. he quickens himself to the discharge of his ministerial office, from the fear of God's wrath; knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men : though he was assured of glory, yet he quickens himself to the discharge of his ministerial function, by the fear of God's wrath. So that it is evident there may be a fear of God's wrath exciting unto duty; where yet there is a full assurance, beyond all doubting and hesitation, of escaping wrath. So that this is not that fear, that the Apostle excites them who have assurance unto.
(2) There is a fear of terror; a shivering in the soul, upon the apprehension of the greatness of the evil feared, but avoided too: and this is consistent with full assurance.
Thus the terror of past dangers sometimes causeth as much terror, as if we were again to encounter with them. So, when believers look back upon that wrath and fiery indignation, that they have narrowly escaped; upon that lake of brimstone, that boils and burns behind them, wherein thousands of others are for ever swallowed up; this cannot but affect them with a holy horror and fear of God's wrath against sinners, though they have full assurance of his love.
(3) There is also, in Fear, a flight and aversion from the evil feared : and this, also, is consistent with full assurance.
Noah had full assurance, from the promise of God, for his preservation from the deluge; and yet it is said, that Noah, being moved with fear, built him an ark. Full assurance to escape
evil is far from hindering, as some calumniate it, the use of means to prevent that evil : yea, the assurance, that we have to escape hell and wrath, is of the greatest and most effectual influence, to make us careful to use those means whereby we may escape it. See this in 2 Cor. vii. 1. Having these promises.....let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness both of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God: so, in Tit. ii. 11, 12, 13. The grace of God, that bringeth salvation....teacheth us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts..... Looking for that blessed hope, and "the glorious appearing of ......our Lord Jesus Christ : so, in 1 John iii. 3. Every one, that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as God is pure.
Thus you see what fear it is, that the Apostle exhorts believers to, who have a kingdom: not a fear of perplexing doubtfulness, but such as is consistent with their full assurance: that is, so to fear the wrath of God, as to have our hearts affected with terror at the greatness and insupportableness of that wrath, though they have escaped it; and to fear so, as to avoid all sin, and all that exposeth to that wrath. In these two senses, they, that are assured that God is their God, ought to fear him as a consuming fire.
2. Let us now see upon what Grounds and Considerations a believer, who is assured of God's love and favour to him, ought yet to fear him. (1) As a Consuming Fire.
 The consideration of that mighty and dreadful power, that God puts forth in the punishing and afflicting of the damned, may strike fear into the hearts of those, that are fully assured of God's love and favour to them.
Such a fear as this, the holy angels themselves have: though they are secured by Christ in that blessed state and condition that they enjoy; yet, to see God stripping and making bare his arm, to lay on weighty strokes of everlasting vengeance upon their fellow angels that are fallen, makes them to tremble and stand astonished at the almighty power of God: and this keeps them at a due distance, in their thoughts and apprehensions of his dreadful majesty. And should it not much more make us to tremble with an awful respect of the power of God, to consider how he crusheth and breaks the damned in hell, by his own almighty arm stretched out, in the full power of his wrath, to their everlasting destruction? It is from this power of God, that Christ himself enforceth the fear of God: Mat. x. 28. Fear him, which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell : though God should assure you, that he would never destroy you in hell; yet, because he is able to do it, therefore you should fear him.
 This fear may arise in the hearts of the children of God, who are most assured of his love, from the consideration of the wrath and dreadful severity of God, as well as of his power.
If a father corrects his slave in his wrath, this will cause fear and dread in the son, though he knows that wrath shall never fall upon him: so, a child of God, who is assured of the tender love and favour of God to himself, yet, when he sadly considers that wrath and indignation that is in God against the damned; when he sees his Heavenly Father angry, though it be not against him ; this must needs strike a reverential fear and awe into his soul. Now this reverential fear will remain for ever: The fear of the Lord endureth for ever. Yea, when the children of God shall be made for ever happy in heaven, yet this fear shall be then increased, and not at all diminished: the more they see of the power of the wrath and severity of God executed upon the