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come the devil: holy prayer procures the ministry and service of angels, it rescinds the decrees of God, it cures sicknesses and obtains pardon, it arrests the sun in its course, and stays the wheels of the chariot of the moon; it rules over all God's creatures, and opens and shuts the storehouses of rain; it unlocks the cabinet of the womb, and quenches the violence of fire; it stops the mouths of lions, and reconciles our sufferance and weak faculties, with the violence of torment and sharpness of persecution; it pleases God and supplies all our needs. But prayer that can do thus much for us, can do nothing at all without holiness; for “ God heareth not sinners, but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doth his will, him he heareth."
have grace, whereby we may serve God with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.-Heb. xii.
part of the 28th and 29th verses. ΕΧΩΜΕΝ την χάριν, so our Testaments usually read it, from the authority of Theophylact; “ Let us have grace," but some copies read in the indicative mood & youev, “ We have grace, by which we do serve;” and it is something better consonant to the discourse of the Apostle. For having enumerated the great advantages, which the Gospel hath above those of the law, he makes an argument “a majori;' and answers a tacit objection. The law was delivered by angels, but the Gospel by the Son of God: the law was delivered from Mount Sinai, the Gospel from Mount Sion, from “the heavenly Jerusalem :” the law was given with terrors and noises, with amazements of the standers-by, and Moses himself, “the minister, did exceedingly quake and fear," and gave demonstration how infinitely dangerous it was by
breaking that law to provoke so mighty a God, who with his voice did shake the earth; but the Gospel was given by a meek Prince, a gentle Saviour, with a still voice, scarce heard in the streets. But that this may be no objection, he proceeds and declares the terror of the Lord : ‘Deceive not yourselves, our Lawgiver appeared so upon earth, and was so truly, but now he is ascended into heaven, and from thence he speaks to us. “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh; for if they escaped not, who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven';" for as God once shook the earth, and that was full of terror, so our Lawgiver shall do, and much more, and be far more terrible, "Ετι άπαξ εγώ σείσω τον ουρανόν και την γήν και την θάλασσαν και Trv Enpáv, said the prophet Haggai, which the Apostle quotes here, he once shook the earth. But “once more I shake;" gelow, it is in the prophecy, “I will shake, not the earth only, but also heaven”," with a greater terror than was upon Mount Sinai, with the voice of an archangel, with the trump of God, with a concussion so great, that heaven and earth shall be shaken in pieces, and new ones come in their room. This is an unspeakable and an unimaginable terror: Mount Sinai was shaken, but it stands to this day; but when that shaking shall be, “the things that are shaken, shall be no more; that those things that cannot be shaken, may remain:" that is, not only that the celestial Jerusalem may remain for ever, but that you, who do not turn away from the faith and obedience of the Lord Jesus, you, who cannot be shaken nor removed from your duty, you may remain for ever; that when the rocks rend, and the mountains fly in pieces like the drops of a broken cloud, and the heavens shall melt, and the sun shall be a globe of consuming fire, and the moon shall be dark like an extinguished candle, then you poor men, who could be made to tremble with an ague, or shake by the violence of a northern wind, or be removed from your dwellings by the unjust decree of a persecutor, or be thrown from your estates by the violence of an unjust man, yet could not be removed from your duty, and though you went trembling, yet would go to death for the testimony of a holy cause, and you that would die for your faith, would also live
y Heb. xii. 25.
2 ii. 6.
according to it; you shall be established by the power of God, and supported by the arm of your Lord, and shall in all this great shaking be unmovable; as the corner-stone of the gates of the New Jerusalem, you shall remain and abide for ever. This is your case.
And, to sum up the whole force of the argument, the Apostle adds the words of Moses : as it was then, so it is true now, “ Our God is a consuming firea :” he was so to them that brake the law, but he will be much more to them that disobey his Son; he made great changes then, but those which remain, are far greater, and his terrors are infinitely more intolerable; and therefore, although he came not in the spirit of Elias, but with meekness and gentle insinuations, soft as the breath of heaven, not willing to disturb the softest stalk of a violet, yet his second coming shall be with terrors such as shall amaze all the world, and dissolve it into ruin and a chaos. This truth is of so great eflicacy to make us do our duty, that now we are sufficiently enabled with this consideration. This is the grace which we have to enable us, this terror will produce fear, and fear will produce obedience, and “we therefore have grace,” that is, we have such a motive to make us reverence God and fear to offend him, that he that dares continue in sin, and refuses to hear him that speaks to us from heaven, and from thence shall come with terrors, this man despises the grace of God, he is a graceless, fearless, impudent man, and he shall find that true in `hypothesi,' and in his own ruin, which the Apostle declares in thesi,' and by way of caution, and provisionary terror, “ Our God is a consuming fire;” this is the sense and design of the text.
Reverence and godly fear, they are the effects of this consideration, they are the duties of every Christian, they are the graces of God. I shall not press them only to purposes of awfulness and modesty of opinion, and prayers, against those strange doctrines, which some have introduced into religion, to the destruction of all manners and prudent apprehensions of the distances of God and man; such as are the doctrine of necessity of familiarity with God, and a civil friendship, and a parity of estate, and an evenness of adoption ; from whence proceed rudeness in prayer, flat and
· Deat. iv. 24.
indecent expressions, affected rudeness, superstitious sitting at the holy sacrament, making it to be a part of religion to be without fear and reverence; the stating of the question is a sufficient reproof of this folly; whatsoever actions are brought into religion without " reverence and godly fear,” are therefore to be avoided, because they are condemned in this advice of the Apostle, and are destructive of those effects which are to be imprinted upon our spirits by the terrors of the day of judgment. But this fear and reverence, the Apostle intends, should be a deletery to all sin whatsoever : φοβερόν, δηλητήριον" φόβος, φυγή: says the Etymologicum : " Whatsoever is terrible, is destructive of that thing for which it is so;" and if we fear the evil effects of sin, let us fly from it, we ought to fear its alluring face too; let us be so afraid, that we may not dare to refuse to hear him whose throne is heaven, whose voice is thunder, whose tribunal is clouds, whose seat is the right hand of God, whose word is with power; whose law is given with mighty demonstration of the Spirit, who shall reward with heaven and joys eternal, and who punishes his rebels, that will not have him to reign over them, with brimstone and fire, with a worm that never dies, and a fire that never is quenched ; let us fear him who is terrible in his judgments, just in his dispensation, secret in his providence, severe in his demands, gracious in his assistances, bountiful in his gifts, and is never wanting to us in what we need; and if all this be not argument strong enough to produce fear, and that fear great enough to secure obedience, all arguments are useless, all discourses are vain, the grace of God is ineffective, and we are dull as the dead sea; inactive as a rock, and we shall never dwell with God in any sense, but as " he is a consuming fire,” that is, dwell in everlasting burnings.
Aidwç kaì củlássia, Reverence and caution, modesty and fear, metà củlapelaç kaì dlouç, so it is in some copies, with caution and fear; or if we render &úlássia to be ' fear of punishment,' as it is generally understood by interpreters of this place, and is in Ηesychius ευλαβείσθαι, φυλάττεσθαι, φοβείσθαι, then the expression is the same in both words, and it is all one with the other places of Scripture, “ Work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” degrees of the same duty; and they signify all those actions and graces, which are the
proper effluxes of fear; such as are reverence, prudence, caution, and diligence, chastity and a sober spirit : úláßala, GELVÓTIS, so also say the grammarians; and it means plainly this; since our God will appear so terrible at his second coming, " let us pass the time of our sojourning here in fearb,” that is, modestly, without too great confidence of ourselves : soberly, without bold crimes, which when a man acts, he must put on shamelessness; reverently towards God, as fearing to offend him; diligently observing his commandments, inquiring after his will, trembling at his voice, attending to his word, reverencing his judgments, fearing to provoke him to anger; for “ it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Thus far it is a duty.
Concerning which, that I may proceed orderly, I shall first consider how far fear is a duty of Christian religion. 2. Who and what states of men ought to fear, and upon what reasons. 3. What is the excess of fear, or the obliquity and irregularity whereby it becomes dangerous, penal, and criminal; a state of evil, and not a state of duty.
1. Fear is taken sometimes in Holy Scripture for the whole duty of man, for his whole religion towards God. “ And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God," &c. fear is obedience, and fear is love, and fear is humility, because it is the parent of all these, and is taken for the whole duty to which it is an introduction. “ The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and a good understanding have all they that do thereafter; the praise of it endureth for everd ;” and “ Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of mano :” and thus it is also used in the New Testament: “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of Godf.”
2. Fear is sometimes taken for worship: for so our blessed Saviour expounds the words of Moses in Matt. iv. 10. taken from Deut. x. 20. “ Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God," so Moses; “ Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve,” said our blessed Saviour; and so it was used by the prophet Jonah; “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord the God of heavens,” that is, I worship him;
6 1 Pet. i. 17.
e Deut. x. 12.
& Psal. cxi, 10.