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the anger of God should fall upon him; he fears that; that is, accounts that only terrible: but yet, he doth not fear, doth not apprehend it will fall upon him, he is better persuaded of the goodness of his God. So this fear is still joined with trust, as here, so often elsewhere. Psal. xxxiii. 18, xl. 3, and cxlvii. 11.
There is no turbulency in this fear; it is calm and sweet, Even that most terrible evil, that which this fear properly apprehends and flies, sin, yet, the fear of that goes not to a distraction. Though there is little strength, and many and great enemies, mighty Anakims of temptations from without, and corruptions within, and so, good reason for a holy, humble fear and self-distrust, yea, this should not beat us off: yet, it is most fit to put us on to trust in Him who is our strength. Courage the day shall be ours. Though we may be often foiled and down, and sometimes almost at a hopeless point, yet, our Head is on high. He hath conquered for us, and shall conquer in us. Therefore, upon this confidence, so fear as not to fear. Why should I fear in the days of evil, says the Psalmist, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about? Psal. xlix. 5. (Which I take is some grievous affliction, and that with a visage of punishment of sin: guiltiness is to be read in it, yet does he not fear.) If I trusted in wealth, and boasted myself in the multitude of riches, then that being in hazard, I must fear: leaning on that, it failing, I might fall. But this is my confidence, (ver. 15.) God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for he shall receive me. Wealth cannot, but He can. It buys not a man out from his hand, but He buys, from the hand of the grave; so the word is. For the visible heavens even in their fall, and the dissolution of nature, would not affright a believer, Si fractus illabatur orbis, &c.
Alas! most persons have dull or dim apprehensions and shallow impressions of God; therefore they have little either of this fear or of this trust. God is not in all their thoughts, but how to compass this or that design, and if they miss one, then how to compass another: they are cast from one wave
upon another. And if at any time they attain their purpose, they find it but a wind, a handful of nothing, far from what they fancied it.
Oh, my brethren, my desire is, that the faces of your souls were but once turned about, that they were towards Him, looking to Him, continually fearing Him, delighting, trusting in Him, making Him your all. Can any thing so elevate and ennoble the spirit of a man, as to contemplate and converse with the pure, ever-blessed Spring and Father of Spirits ? Beg that you may know Him, that He would reveal Himself to you; for otherwise, no teaching can make Him known. It is to light candles to seek the sun,, to think to attain to this knowledge without His own revealing it. If He hide His face, who then may behold Him? Pray for this quickening knowledge, such a knowledge as will effectually work this happy fear and trust.
You who have attained any thing of it, desire and follow on to know the Lord; particularly, so that your hearts may repose on Him. So fear as that you may not fear. He would have our spirits calm and quiet; for when they are in a hurry and confusion, they are then fit for nothing: all within makes a jarring unpleasant noise, as of an instrument quite out of tune.
This fear of God is not, you see, a perplexing doubting, and distrust of His love: on the contrary, it is a fixed resting and trust on His love. Many who have some truth of grace, are, through weakness, filled with disquieting fears; but possibly, though they perceive it not, it may be in some, a point of wilfulness, a little latent, undiscerned affectation of scrupling and doubting, placing much of religion in it. True where the soul is really solicitous about its interest in God, that argues some grace; but being vexingly anxious about it, argues that grace is low and weak. A spark there is, even discovered by that smoke; but the great smoke still continuing, and nothing seen but it, argues there is little fire, little faith, little love.
And this, as it is unpleasant to thyself, so is it to God, as smoke to the eyes. What if one should be always questioning with his friend, whether he loved him or not, and upon every little occasion were ready to think he doth not, how would this disrelish their society together, though truly loving each other! The far more excellent way, and more pleasing both to ourselves and to God, were to resolve on humble trust, reverence, and confidence, being most afraid to offend, delighting to walk in His ways, loving Him and His will in all, and then, resting persuaded of His love, though He chastise us. And even though we offend Him, and see our offences in our chastisements, yet, He is good, plenteous in redemption, ready to forgive; therefore let Israel trust and hope. Psal. cxxx. 7. Let my soul roll itself on Him, and adventure there all its weight. He bears greater matters, upholding the frame of heaven and earth, and is not troubled nor burdened with it. The heart of a man is not sufficient for self-support; therefore, naturally, it seeks out some other thing to lean and rest itself on. The unhappiness is, for the most part, that it seeks to things below itself; but these, being both so mean and so uncertain, cannot be a firm and certain stay to it. These things are not fixed themselves: how can they then fix the heart? Can a man have firm footing on a quagmire, or moving sands? Therefore, men are forced in these things, still to shift their seat, and seek about from one to another, still rolling and unsettled. The believer only hath this advantage; he hath a rest high enough and sure enough, out of the reach of all hazards. His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.
The basis of this happiness is, He trusteth in the Lord. So the heart is fixed; and so fixed, it fears no ill tidings. This trust is grounded on the word of God, revealing the power and all-sufficiency of God, and withal His goodness, His offer of Himself to be the stay of souls, His commanding us to rest on Him. People wait on I know not what persuasions and assurances, but I know no other to build faith
on, than the word of promise, the truth and faithfulness of God opened up, His wisdom, and power, and goodness, as the stay of all those who, renouncing all other props, will venture on it, and lay all upon Him. He that believes, sets to his seal that God is true, John iii. 33, and so, he is sealed for God; his portion and interest are secured. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established. Isa. vii. 9.
This is the way to have peace and assurance, which many look for first, Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee. Isa. xxvi. 3. So here, the heart is fixed by trusting.
Seek, then, clearer apprehensions of the faithfulness and goodness of God, hearts more enlarged in the notion of free grace, and the absolute trust due to it; thus shall they be more established and fixed in all the rollings and changes of the world.
His heart is fixed, or prepared, ready-dressed and in arms for all services, resolved not to give back, able to meet all adventures, and stand its ground. God is unchangeable, and therefore, faith is invincible. That sets the heart on Him, fastens it there on the rock of eternity; then, let winds blow, and storms arise, it cares not.
This firm and close cleaving unto God, hath in it of the affection which is inseparable from this trust, love joined with faith, and so, a hatred of all ways and thoughts that alienate and estrange from God, that remove and unsettle the heart. The holiest, wariest heart is surely the most believing and fixed heart. If a believer will adventure on any way of sin, he shall find that it will unfix him, and shake his confidence, more than ten thousand hazards and assaults from without. These are so far from moving, that they settle and fix the heart commonly more, causing it to cleave the closer and nearer unto God; but sinful liberty breeds disquiet, and disturbs all. Where sin is, there will be a storm: the wind within the bowels of the earth, makes the earthquake.
Would you be quiet, and have peace within in troublous times
keep near unto God, beware of any thing that may interpose betwixt you and your confidence. It is good for me, says the Psalmist to be near God; not only to draw near, but to keep near, to cleave to Him, and dwell in Him: so the word imports. Oh, the sweet calm of such a soul amidst all storms! Thus, once, trusting and fixed, then no more fear: he is not afraid of evil tidings, not of any ill-hearing. Whatsoever sound is terrible in the ears of men, the noise of war, news of death, or even the sound of the trumpet in the last judgment, he hears all this undisquieted. Nothing is unexpected. Being once fixed on God, then the heart may put cases to itself, and suppose all things imaginable, the most terrible, and look for them; not troubled before trouble comes, with dark and dismal apprehensions, but satisfied in a quiet, unmoved expectation of the hardest things. Whatsoever it is, though particularly not thought on before, yet, the heart is not afraid of the news of it, because it is fixed, trusting on the Lord. Nothing can shake that foundation, nor dissolve that union; therefore, no fear. Yea, this assurance stays the heart in all things, how strange and unforseen soever to it. All are foreseen to my God on whom I trust, yea are forecontrived and ordered by Him. This is the impregnable fortress of a soul. All is at the disposal and command of my God; my Father rules all: what need I fear?
is his strong city,
Every one trusts to somewhat. As for honour, and esteem, and popularity, they are airy, vain things; but riches seem a more solid work and fence, yet, they are but a tower in conceit, not really. Prov. xviii. 11. The rich man's wealth and as a high wall in his own conceit. But, (ver. 10,) the name of the Lord is a strong tower, indeed. This is the thing that all seek, some fence and fixing; here it is. We call you not to vexation and turmoil, but from it, and, as St. Paul said, Whom ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you. Ye blindly and fruitlessly seek after the shew. The true aiming at this fixedness of mind will secure that, though they fall short, yet, by the way