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as natural for us to think of Him with the profoundest reverence, if our hearts be right with him, as it is for a dutiful child to respect an aged and venerable parent. Nor can we refrain from feeling what is uttered in the language of heaven, Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy.”
II. Reverence of the character and perfections of God is essential to true and acceptable worship. The mind, indeed, is not fit to draw near to God, and to offer him the homage which is suited to his nature and attributes, unless it is affected with solemn awe in his
presence. Unless the worshipper is thus affected, his worship is neither profitable to himself nor pleasing to God. “ I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified.” Wherefore, saith the Apostle, “ Let us have grace, whereby we may serve him acceptably, with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire.” “ As for me,” says the Psalmist, “I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercies ; and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.” Nor should we here forget that remarkable passage of the Prophet Isaiah, in which God, after alluding to his own majesty and glory, promises his peculiar favour to the fearer of his name and of his law. “ Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the earth is
my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me, and where is the place of my rest ? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord; but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and tremvleth at my word.”
To worship God with reverence is to think of him, and to address him, with awe of the power that has given being to all things, and which can create and can destroy,-of the boundless wisdom that designed the work of creation, and the nobler work of human redemption,-of the goodness which is over all his works, and which supplies the wants of every living thing,-of the patience which endures with much longsuffering the provocations of the wicked, and which gives to the children of disobedience time for
repentance,—of the mercy that pardons the penitent, but that pardons him through an atonement of infinite value. Nor is it possible for this profound awe to be absent from the mind in our approaches unto God, did we think aright of the greatness and the spotless purity of Him who fills heaven and earth with his presence, and of the myriads of exalted spirits who continually minister before him, and celebrate his glories. Were the vision opened up to the eye of our faith, and could we see, however dimly, the glories of the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, we should wonder at His condescension, and be ready to exclaim with the deepest humility and reverence, Will God in very deed dwell with men upon the earth?
? III. It is not only conducive, but essentially necessary to true obedience, and to progressive holiness. The great motive to obedience to the will of God, and that without which all others would be of no avail, is love: but love, even when perfect, though it casts out the fear that hath torment, implies and requires the reverential fear of God. This latter principle possesses a power that adapts it to our nature and
circumstances, and is necessary to impel us forward with zeal and watchfulness in the path of righteous
Hence the terms in which Solomon sums up the conclusion of the whole matter: “ Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is all that concern
For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Here the inspired writer assumes, that the fear of God established in the heart, would operate as a preventive to sloth, impiety, and unrighteousness, and would prompt to an universal obedience to the commandments.
The light in which God makes himself known to us in the Scriptures, is well calculated to awe as well as to cheer the soul. He has shewn himself to be the God of love; but he has given a demonstration at the same time of his holiness and justice. It is affirmed, of the same glorious God that he delighteth in mercy, and that his wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; that he is a consuming fire, and that it is a fearful thing to fall into his hands. Is not this combination of character harmoniously displayed in the Cross of Christ? Do we not there behold free and unbounded mercy to the sinner, and unsparing wrath against sin, eternal love bestowing an unspeakable gift, and justice by the most awful infliction vindicating its honour?
Hence the union of fear and love in the mind of every believer,—an union which is maintained by every view of the divine character, by the promises and threatenings, the invitations and warnings, of the Holy Scriptures,-and an union which exerts a happy
influence in keeping in continued exercise all the christian graces, and producing all those apparently opposite dispositions which characterize the humble, watchful, self-diffident, resigned, and spiritually-minded disciple of Christ. He is reminded, that while his sin is pardoned, its wages is death; that this death was inflicted in all its bitterness on that divine person who obeyed and suffered in his room; and that in no way can he escape final condemnation, but by continuing in the faith and holiness of the gospel to the end. At every period, even the most advanced of his course, is the caution applicable: if we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
Not only is the whole scheme of divine truth thus adapted to inspire and to keep alive in the mind a godly fear, but the representations which are given of the righteous and the wicked, shew its necessity, to continued and progressive obedience. Of the latter, it is said, that they have not the fear of God before their eyes; of the former, that they fear God, and eschew evil. What is the character given of the unjust judge, who neglected the duties of his office ? That he feared not God, nor regarded man. Obadiah, that benevolent and heroic individual, who hid a hundred and fifty of the prophets of the Lord from the persecuting Jezebel, is described as one that feared the Lord greatly. If, in a word, this principle were to be removed from the mind, we cease to be safe, whatever were our previous attainments, just because we cease
to be watchful, and zealously concerned to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
IV. Godly fear is not only compatible with the highest delight and confidence in God, but is so essential to the holiness of a dependent being, that it will abide for ever in heaven. That the first part of this proposition, namely, its compatibility with the highest delight and confidence in God, is true, is proved hy the abundant testimony of revelation. How elevated are the strains in which the Psalmist expresses his joy and confidence in God; and yet it is in the Book of Psalms that we are commanded to serve the Lord with fear, and to rejoice with trembling. None of the inspired writers seem farther removed beyond the experience of ordinary Christians, in the liveliness with which he anticipated heavenly felicity, and in the lofty and unqualified terms in which he speaks of the assurance of his hope than the Apostle Paul; and yet he unites himself with his fellow-disciples when he addresses them in the language of caution, “Let us, therefore, fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.— I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest, that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.”
That reverence of the character of God animates all pure beings throughout the universe, and will continue for ever with the worshippers of heaven, is a position which, after the observations already made, requires no proof. This reverence will become more profound by every additional discovery of the glory of God. While the manifestation of his awful Ma