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A HEART TO FEAR THE LORD.
“I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” Jer. 32:40. In unfolding this topic, I shall proceed by these steps: I shall show, 1. That the Lord God is a dreadful God; 2. That the Lord hath put the dread of himself upon the hearts of all the earth ; 3. That yet by sin the heart of man is much hardened from the fear of the Lord; 4. That God will recover his honor, and again put his fear into the hearts of his people ; and, 5. What this fear of the Lord is that he will put into them.
I. THE LORD GOD IS A DREADFUL GOD: he is dreadful in the excellency and glory of his majesty. “Shall not his excellency make you afraid, and his dread fall upon you ?” Job 13:11. His power is dreadful: "Fear ye not me? saith the Lord. Will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it ?" Fear ye not me? saith the Lord. He that did this, what can he not do? His wrath is a dreadful wrath : “ At his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.” Jer. 10:10. Yea, his holiness is dreadful, his truth, his righteousness, and all his name. " That thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord thy God.” Deut. 28:58. The Lord God is a dreadful God.
II. The Lord God hath put THE DREAD OF HIMSELF UPON THE HEARTS OF ALL THE EARTH. Not the best only, but the worst of the sons of men. “I am a great King, saith the Lord; and my name is dreadful among the heathen." This dread of the Lord breaks forth upon them,
1. From the impress of God upon the natures of all men. As the law, so the being of God is written in their hearts ; he has his witness in their consciences. If the atheists of the earth could answer all the arguments from without proving that there is a God; yet they can never confute their own consciences. If the works of God do not, their reins shall instruct them; if they will not see, whether they will or not they shall feel, that there is a God; and whereever God is felt, he is feared : even when their mouth speaketh proud things, their heart shall meditate terror; and when nothing else alarms them, they shall be a terror to themselves.
2. It is increased by the great works of God, his wonders that he doeth in the world—his thunder and his hail, his wind and his waves; his earthquakes make many an earthquake in hearts.
3. It is further heightened by his judgments, which he executeth on the earth. The judgments of God, are God revealing himself from heaven against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, and strike most terror, 1. When he smites suddenly, and makes quick work with sinners: as when Herod was smitten by an angel of God, Nadab and Abihu consumed by fire from God, immediately upon their sin. Sudden strokes shake secure hearts. 2. When he executes strange judgments, and makes a new thing: as in the case of Korah and his company, he made the earth to open her mouth upon them, and swallow them up; as he made the flies, and the frogs, and the lice, to be the executioners of his wrath on Pharaoh. 3. When he executes great wrath for little sins, as men account them; as in the case of Uzzah, whom he struck dead for but touching the ark when it shook. 4. When he exercises great severity on his own people, on those that are near him. If he spareth not his sons, what will he do with his enemies? “If these things be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry ?!
4. Yet further, men's dread is increased by their consciousness of guilt, and of their being bound over to the judgment to come. The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, with the point of a diamond it is graven upon the tables of their heart. The sin of Judah is written; yea, and the sin of the Gentiles also : “Their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing.” Rom. 2:15. And where their sin is written, there their judgment is written, which even nature itself will teach doth inevitably follow upon sin; and this is the great dread that is come upon them. The very mention of judgment to come, made Felix tremble at the face of a
poor prisoner. This is the terror of the Lord mentioned by the apostle: “We must all appear before the judgment-seat. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” 2 Cor. 5:10, 11. Death is said to be the king of terrors; and this is the terror of death, “After that the judgment.” All these, the impress of God upon their hearts, the wonders of God in the world, the vengeance of God executed on sin, the sense of guilt and of a judgment to come, do preach to the consciences of sinners that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
III. Yet by sin the heart of man is MUCH HARDENED from the fear of the Lord. Sin blinds the eye and hardens the heart, brings into danger and puts out of fear. Who in such danger, and yet who so bold as the blind sinner ? When the understanding is darkened, the next word we read is, “Past feeling." Eph. 4:19. There is included in the very nature of sin a slighting of God; and by once slighting we learn to slight him more. Slight the command, and you will quickly slight the curse. Laugh at duty, and it will not be long ere you laugh at fear. And when sin hath thus hardened, God will also harden; he lets the sinner alone, suspends his judgments, smites the sinner with judicial blindness, and gives him up to a reprobate mind. Rom. 1:28. And when once they come to this, then hell is broke loose: for what fol. lows? “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness," and what not. Rom. 1:29. “The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.” Psa. 36: 1. When Abraham had such a thought, “Surely the fear of God is not in this place," Gen. 20:11, what did he think was there ? Murder, adultery, and all manner of villany. 6 What sawest thou among us, that thou hast done this thing ?” What hurt, what evil didst thou see among us? What evil! Evil enough to make me afraid : I thought the fear of God was not here, and there needs no more to make me afraid. Say of any person, The fear of God is not in this man, and you therein say, The devil is in him; here dwells sin, and all manner of wickedness. Say of any place, The fear of God is not in this place; and if you find it an Egypt or Sodom for abominations, you will not wonder. 6 The fear of the Lord is clean," Psa. 19:9, that is, it cleanseth. Where this is not, every unclean thing may dwell. The reason why this world is such a world as it is, such a wicked world, such a treacherous, deceitful, ungodly world—why there is so little faith, or truth, or mercy, or charity, or sobriety, is, because there is so little of the fear of God. Sin has cast out fear, and this has brought forth sin in abundance. The law is nothing, threatenings are nothing, conscience is nothing, God is nothing to men, because he is not their fear. Wickedness is as righteousness; villany, as honesty; prodigality, debauchery, as temperance and sobriety; yea, wickedness faces the sun, it lifts up the head, it wears the garland; it paints itself virtue, generosity, gallantry, the beauty and ornament of the world, wherever the fear of God is departed.