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the creature, the fear of God may be the ratio motiva. Take all rewards and punishments and abstract them from the command of God, yet the command of God obligeth us; but add these and they will more powerfully enforce it. A cipher is nothing in itself, but add it to a sum and it increaseth the sum: rewards and punishments being added to the command to enforce it.
(3.) The fear of God should work upon us in this manner, to be a bridle to check and restrain us from sin. For you shall find this to be the method of the gospel, where God persuades us to duties he propounds reward; when he dissuades us from sin he presents and urgeth judgments; therefore in this manner should fear work upon the soul, Rom. 8. 13. "For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die," there is a check from sin; "but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live,” there is an encouragement to duty.
(4.) This fear of God's judgments, or of the threatenings of God, its chiefest season is then, when some present temptation presseth upon us, when conscience and the affections are divided, when conscience doth withdraw a man from sin, and when his carnal affections draw him forth to it, then should the fear of God come in. It is a holy design for a christian to counterbalance the pleasures of sin with the terrors of it, and thus to cure the poison of the viper by the flesh of the viper. Thus that admirable saint and martyr bishop Hooper, when he came to die one endeavoured to dehort him from death by this, O Sir, consider, that 'Life is sweet, and death is bitter;' presently he replied, Life to come is more sweet, and death to come is more bitter,' and so went to the stake and patiently endured the fire. Thus as a christian may sometimes outweigh the pleasures of sin by the consideration of the reward of God, so sometimes he may quench the pleasures of sin by the consideration of the terrors of God. We read of our Lord Jesus, that he did outweigh the shame of the cross by the glory of his exaltation, Heb. 12. 2. He was not ashamed of the cross, because of the glory that was set before him. So a christian may thus consider with himself, that communion with God exceeds all the gratifications of the senses; that there is more pleasure in one minute's enjoyment of his love than in all the carnal dreggy delights of the world for ever: and on the other side, he may make use of this fear.
(5.) I conceive this, that the fear of God's threatenings doth more ingenuously work when it respects the loss of heaven than the casting into hell. For an ingenuous son doth not so much fear to be cast into a house of correction, as he fears disinheriting; so a gracious spirit doth more fear the loss of God's countenance, than all the bodily pains that can be inflicted upon him; this is a fear that is more ingenuous and filial.
(6.) The fear of God's judgments should so far, and in this manner work upon every christian, as to render his pardon the more welcome, and to make the grace and love of God to shine forth with a brighter lustre. Oh such a person as fears the power and the terror of God's wrath, how will he esteem Christ as the crown of his glory, as the spring of his joy, and as his riches! Oh such a person will break forth with the apostle, "God forbid that I should glory in any thing but in the cross of Christ." There is no person that ever prizeth a sanctuary or an asylum at such a high rate, as he that is pursued by the avenger of blood; and no person will ever set a value upon the righteous ness of Christ, and upon the mercy of God till he doth fear that wrath that is endless and remediless.
An exhortation to the fear of God.
vii. LET me press upon you this eminent grace, a grace that in this respect hath a special prerogative and singularity that attends it, whereas many other graces of the christian life are but respective graces, they only concern some persons, some conditions, and some states of life; but the fear of God, shall I call it a single grace or rather an universal grace, that respects all persons in all states, and at all times. It is not a greater absurdity
for a carpenter to be without his rule, than for a christian to be without the fear of God. This is that grace which is the director of all other graces, and therefore let us fear him. But especially upon this account, fear the Lord because it is the best preservative against sin; the love of God is that which constrains us to service, the fear of God is that which checks and restrains us from disobedience. This will preserve the soul in the midst of snares; lay but this fear aside and you will fall in plain ground. Thus we read of Lot, by the fear of God he was preserved in the midst of defiled Sodom; but when he laid that aside he sinned upon the mount. Therefore as you desire to keep yourselves spotless, so let the fear of God reign in you. Remember our whole lives are a continued temptation, we walk in the midst of O consider, that although the enemy be without us, yet the traitor is within us, I mean our deceitful hearts; and therefore fear God with a fear of reverence, and fear your hearts with a fear of jealousy: if this grace do but take its regency in the soul, the devil may surround us, but he cannot surprise us. It is then with the temptations of satan as it is with casting fire upon a marble pavement, which can do no hurt; but if you cast in but one spark into gunpowder it causeth a conflagration: if the fear of God guards the heart, the temptations of the devil are but like casting fire upon marble, there is no danger; but remove this bridle once, and every temptation is like a spark in gunpowder. The world without us prevails over us because of the world within us, and it is only the fear of God that keeps the soul always upon its watch and guard. And consider, it is as a duty which you are obliged to now under the gospel. There are various attributes in God, and as his justice doth not devour his mercy, so his mercy doth not violate his justice; and there must be proportionable affections in us to the attributes in God. As he is the God of mercy, so I should love and fear him too; but as he is a just God, so our fear is properly terminated upon him. Remember this, if every grace of the soul should languish, yet the fear of God last of all remains; that is the bond of the new covenant, "I will put my fear into their hearts that they shall not depart from me;" this is that grace that is of most universal use and influence in the christian's life; and therefore let us exercise this duty, this affection, that so we may be truly wise, we may be wise for ourselves, and wise towards God.
What heavenly wisdom is.
II. GENERAL head of discourse-That the fear of the Lord is eminently wisdom. Having opened the subject the "Fear of the Lord," the next thing to be opened is the predicate, that is wisdom.' It is recorded, Prov. 17. that it is the beginning of wisdom,' as it is so in point of order, so in point of excellency, this is the root, the fulness, and the perfection of wisdom. This fear of the Lord is that which will entitle a man wise for ever. Now for the more clear discovery of this I will
i. Consider in the general what this heavenly wisdom is.
ii. Upon what account it is that the fear of the Lord is wisdom, the most eminent wisdom, and without which fear, seraphical angelical wisdom is nothing.
i. For the first of these, consider there is a double wisdom, as Aristotle distinguisheth it.
1. There is that which he calls a wisdom universal.
2. A particular wisdom.
Now the particular wisdom is this, when we see a person excellent in an art, we say that man is wise as to that profession. The universal wisdom and that which is in perfection is this, when there is a knowledge of those principles and means which have a tendency to a man's absolute happiness. Now this is the wisdom that here I shall treat of; and before I show you the connexion of God's fear with it, or how the fear of God is this wisdom, we will consider
(1.) Wisdom in its causes. (2.) Wisdom in its objects.
(3.) Wisdom in its acts.
(4.) Wisdom in its scope and aim.
(1.) The cause of this heavenly wisdom. This wisdom is a divine ray or emanation which flows from the Father of lights. "There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." Job 32. 8. Man hath the facul
ty, but God must enlighten that faculty. A dial is capable to show us the hour of the day, but the sun must first shine upon it so the understanding of man is capable of wisdom, but God must shine upon it, so that in reference to its cause and original it is heavenly.
(2.) Consider the objects of this wisdom, and those principally are two. 1st. God, and 2dly. A man's self. These are the two poles upon which heavenly wisdom turns itself.
1st. God as he is glorious in himself and good to us, so he is the object of spiritual wisdom. It is not the knowledge of the nature of diamonds or pearls that can enrich us, but the knowledge of the wise God makes us wise; this wisdom as it comes from God, so it returns to him, as those rivers that proceed from the sea do empty themselves into it.
2dly. There must be the knowledge of a man's self, and that in two respects.
1. In respect of his capacity.
2. In respect of his immortality.
First, In respect of his capacity. There is an unlimitedness in the desires of a reasonable soul; our desires are not confined to those degrees of goodness which are scattered in the variety of earthly things, but reach forth towards the whole latitude of good, they can never rest nor acquiesce till they come to the comprehensiveness that is in God, and this is wisdom to know this capacity; for it is the greatest folly in the world for a man to measure his capacity, in respect of his senses.
Secondly. The knowledge of the immortality of the soul, so that all mortal and perishable creatures are no more able to make the soul happy, than the light of a candle to give day to the world.
(3.) What are the acts of this wisdom? They are principally three. 1st. Deliberation. 2dly. Election. 3dly. Application.
1st. The first is deliberation. A consulting with ourselves how we may advance ourselves to the fountain of goodness, how we may be really and eternally happy, how we may secure our souls, which are our jewel, with the loss of which the whole world would be but a specious beggary: and this act of deliberation, considering how we may make ourselves happy, is the peculiar excellency of a man; this is that which distinguisheth him. from the inferior order of creatures.