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his own Eternal Happiness. The Fear of the Lord is equally Wisdom, in this view; as being the only disposition, which can either be happy in itself, or receive its proper reward from God.
Every person, who has read the Scriptures of the Old Testament, must have observed, that this phrase, the Fear of the Lord, and others substantially involving the same words, as well as the same meaning, are oftener used to denote the moral character, which is acceptable to God, than any, perhaps than all, other phrases whatever. It must, also, have struck every such reader, that this phrase is often used to denote all moral excellence ; particularly, that supreme branch of this excellence, which is denominated Piety. This is plainly the drift of the text; and of many other corresponding passages of Scripture. Thus it is said, The Fear of the Lord is the beginning, or the chief part, of Wisdom. Psalm cxi. 10. The Fear of the Lord is a fountain of life. Prov. xiv. 27. The Fear of the Lord is his treasure. Is. xxxiii. 6. In these, and a multitude of other, declarations, of a similar import, it is plainly indicated, that the Fear of the Lord is the sum, and substance, of that morally excellent character, which is the object of the divine complacency:
It must, at the same time, be equally obvious to every attentive reader of the Bible, that Love to God has, there, exactly the same character: being, in the language of St. Paul, the fulfilling of the law ; and in that of St. John, the same thing, as being born of God and knowing God; in the sense, in which such knowledge is declared by our Saviour to be life eternal.
But there are not two distinct moral characters, severally thus excellent; thus the objects of the divine complacency, and the foundations of eternal life. Moral excellence is one thing; and moral beings have but one character, which recommends them to God. As this is thus differently spoken of under the names of the Love of God, and the Fear of God, both in the Old and New Testament; it is sufficiently evident to a mind, even slightly attentive, that the Fear of God, and Love of God, are but one character, appearing under different modifications. Accordingly saints, or holy persons, are spoken of sometimes as those who fear God, and sometimes as those who love God: each of these exercises being considered as involving the other; and both, as parts only of one character.
That this view of the subject is perfectly just, is easily explained by a consideration of its Nature. There are two totally distinct exercises, which in the Scriptures, as well as in common language, are denoted by Fearing God; which may be called Dread, and Reverence. The former of these emotions is that, which is experienced by men, conscious of their guilt, feeling that they have merited the anger of God, and realizing the danger of suffering from his hand the punishment of their sins. In this it is plain, that there can be no moral excellence. All that can be said in
favour of it is, that it may serve as a check to sin; and prove, among other means, useful to bring sinners to repentance. "In itself it is mere terror; and in the language of the Scriptures only makes us subject to bondage. The latter of these emotions is a compound of Fear and love, usually styled Reverence; and is often that exercise of the mind, in which its whole attachment is exerted towards God. Fear, in this sense, is a strong apprehension of the greatness, and the purity, of God, excited in the mind of a person, who lodes him supremely. A lively example of a similar emotion is presented to us by the reverence, with which a dutiful child regards a highly respected Earthly Parent. Accordingly, the fear of God, in this sense, is commonly styled filial; in the former sense, it is often termed servile or slavish; as being of the same nature with the dread, which a mercenary servant stands in of an imperious master.
It is perfectly evident, that the distinction between these two emotions is founded entirely on the character of those, by whom they are severally exercised. Reverence to God is experienced only by those who love him; and is plainly the fear, exercised by an affectionate mind only. Were Love the only character of the mind, Dread could not possibly find a place in it. There is no fear in love, says St. John; but perfect love casteth out fear. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. As Christians in this world are not made perfect in love; the fear, spoken of in this passage, viz. that which I have called dread, is, in greater or less degrees, experienced by them. Wicked men are incapable of reverencing God; and only feel a dread of his anger and of punishment.
The Reverence, which is the immediate subject of consideration, ordinarily exists in the mind of a good man, whenever his contemplations are turned towards the Creator, or towards those objects, which are peculiarly his and in which he is peculiarly seen. It is a steady, solemn, and delightful awe, excited in the mind by every view which it takes of the perfections, and operations of this great and glorious Being. In our contemplations, on his Character, He himself becomes immediately the object of our thoughts. In all other cases we see him through the medium of his works, his word, or his ordinances. In all these, and in these alone, are we able to discern his real character. In all these we behold him awfully great, and wise, and good. In his Works, we are witnesses of that boundless benevolence which chose, that boundless knowledge which contrived, and that boundless power which produced, their existence; all of them seen, daily, in every place, and in every object. It is impossible for the mind, which is not totally destitute of Piety, to behold the sublime, the awful, the amazing, works of Creation and Providence; the heavens with their luminaries, the mountains, the ocean, the storm, the earthquake, and the volcano : the circuit of the seasons, and the revolutions of empire ; without marking in them all the mighty
hand of God, and feeling strong emotions of Reverence towards the Author of these stupendous works. At some of them all men tremble: at others all men are astonished, But the sanctified mind, while it is affected in the same manner, blends its fear with love; and mingles delight even with its apprehensions; is serene amid the convulsions, which only terrify others; and encouraged, while all around are overwhelmed with dismay.
In the Word of God, these attributes are, in some respects, ex. hibited in a still more affecting manner. Here, the designs of this awful Being are unfolded, and his works presented, to us, as a vast system of means, operating in a perfect manner to the production of the most divine and glorious ends. Here, the pure and perfect Rectitude of the Creator, his unlimited Wisdom, and overflowing Goodness, are still more divinely manifested in the Law, by which he governs the universe, and in the scheme of restoring mankind to holiness by the Redemption of his Son, disclosed to us in the Gospel. The boundless nature of these things invests them with a magnificence and sublimity, wonderfully increasing the Reverence, excited by the things themselves; but nothing seems to me more fitted to awaken this emotion, than a sense of that spotless purity, in the view of which the heavens are unclean, and the angels chargeable with folly. In the solemn contemplation of this awfully amiable attribute, it seems difficult to forbear exclaiming, What is man, who drinketh iniquity like water? The same emotion, mingled with stronger feelings of alarm, is duced, also, by a contemplation of those amazing events, which are proclaimed by the voice of prophecy concerning the future destination of man: the Conflagration, the Judgment, and the Retributions of the righteous and the wicked.
In the Ordinances of Religion, the very same things are presented to the view of the mind, which so deeply affect it in the Works, and especially in the Word of God; and are presented to us in a manner peculiarly interesting. Here, we in a peculiar manner draw nigh to God; and apply to ourselves, with unrivalled force, the great, the awful, and the glorious things, which excite our Reverence. They are, of course, all seen in the clearest light; and felt with the deepest impression. Our Reverence, therefore, is apt to be here felt in a peculiar degree; not a little enhanced by the sympathy, exercised by multitudes feeling the same impression.
No affection of the mind is more useful than this; especially, when it has become so invigorated by 'habit, as to mingle itself with all our thoughts and feelings. It cannot but be advantageous to mention, particularly, some of the happy consequences, which it regularly produces. As a preface to this subject, it will, however, be proper to observe, generally, that habitual Reverence to God may be justly regarded as being, peculiarly, the spirit, with which his commandments are scrupulously and faithfully obeyed. Fear God, saith Solomon, and keep his commandments : for this is the
whole duty of man: or, in the better language of Hodgson's Version, this is all that concerneth man. Here we have presented to us the two great parts of human duty; our active obedience, and the spirit with which we obey. This spirit is announced by him to be Reverence. He does not say, Love God, and keep his commandments ; but gives this all-comprehensive injunction in what seems to me very evidently better language. If we suppose ourselves to love God, without fearing him ; I have no hesitation in saying, we should not keep his commandments, while possessed of our present imperfection, either to such an extent, or with such exactness, as we now do when under the government of evangelical Reverence. Reverence adds new motives of obedience to those, which are presented by love, considered by itself: Motives pre-eminently powerful and extensive; reaching the heart immediately; and extending to all persons, occasions, and times. Hence it becomes a most powerful prompter to universal obedience : and, although love is the disposition, which renders this emotion excellent; and although the emotion itself is only one modification of love; yet, in my own view, and if I mistake not, in the view of the Scriptures also, it is, at least in such beings as men are, a more energetic prineiple, than mere love, existing, as it actually does exist in human minds. Hence, after so much solemn preparation in the context, God declares in the text, The Fear of the Lord, that is Wisdom. Hence, St. Paul says to the Corinthians, Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh, and of the spirit ; perfecting holiness in the Fear of God. In this passage it is evident, that, in the view of St. Paul, the Fear of God is the primary means of advancing personal holiness to perfection. It is in this view also, that the Prophet Isaiah declares The Fear of the Lord to be his treasure; the attribute, which, in man, he especially prizes, and in which he peculiarly delights.
These observations concerning the general influence of this altribute are sufficient for the present purpose. I shall now, there. fore, proceed to mention its particular influence on the Christian life.
1st. Religious Reverence has a peculiar tendency to render our worship acceptable to God.
Wherefore, says St. Paul, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve him acceptably with reverence and godly fear. In this passage, the grace of God is exhibited to us as the cause, which enables us to worship God acceptably; and Reverence and godly Fear, two names for the same disposition, as the spirit, with which acceptable worship is performed. “By this spirit,” says Dr. Owen, “ the soul is moved and excited to spiritual care and diligence, not to provoke so great, so holy, and so jealous, a God by a neglect of that exercise of grace, he requires in his service, which is due to him on account of his glorious excellencies."
In accordance with this representation of the Apostle, the Psalmist says, Ps. v. 7, As for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy; and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple. Our Saviour also, speaking in the 22d Psalm, says, Ye that fear the Lord praise him; all ye seed of Jacob glorify him; and fear him all ye seed of Israel. In the former of these passages, the Psalmist under the influence of inspiration teaches us that the Fear of God is pre-eminently the spirit with which he would choose to perform his worship in the temple; and the spirit, of course, which he knew would render that worship acceptable to God. In the latter of these passages, our Saviour mentions those, who fear God, as the proper persons to be employed in his praise ; and teaches us therefore, that this is the spirit, with which alone men are becomingly occupied in this solemn and delightful act of worship. At the close of the verse, he exhibits those, who fear God, as the persons who glorify him.
A prime part of the character, given of Job, is that he feared God.Perhaps, this may be alleged as the true reason, why his prayers for his three friends were accepted on their behalf: for we find him immediately before, humbling himself in the presence of God with expressions of the most profound Reverence. Cornelius, also, seems to have had his prayers, as well as his alms, accepted, because he feared God. A much stronger instance than these; the strongest indeed, which can be supposed; is given us in Heb. v. 7, where it is said of Christ, Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death; and was heard, in that he feared. If this translation of the passage be admitted, as the natural meaning of the words requires ; and as, notwithstanding the opinion of several commentators, seems reasonable; we are here taught, that even Christ himself, on the great occasion referred to, was heard on account of the Reverence, with which his supplications were presented. Perhaps this extraordinary declaration was made, especially to teach us, that without religious Reverence no prayer can be accepted of God; and thus to render us peculiarly careful not to approach the throne of grace without emotions in a high degree reverential.
I will only add to these observations from the Scriptures, that a great part of the worship, transcribed in them from the mouths of pious men, consists in reverential sentiments and expressions.
What the Scriptures thus teach is perfectly accordant with the dictates of our Reason. No views, no emotions, in us, can be supposed to become the worship of God, which are not either directly reverential, or such as flow from a generally reverential state of mind. If we remember how great a Being God is; that he is Self-existent and Independent; that he is Almighty and Omnipresent; that he searches the hearts and tries the reins ; that he is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look upon sinners