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themselves compassed with difficulties; seeing a plain duty before them, but the discharge of which will bring upon them reproach or loss, or the blame or anger of men, while the shrinking from it will throw dishonour upon God; their fear of God will come to their aid, and give them courage and strength to act right.
Theirs is a comforting fear. It warns them indeed of the danger of offending God, but it fills their hearts with a sense of satisfaction and peace which nothing else can afford. He who is conscious to himself that his life is guided by a wholesome fear of God, will ever find that he has less inward fear of death, or losses, or any outward evil, than he ever had before. He who fears God will fear nothing else. "The Lord is his light and his salvation, whom should he fear? the Lord is the strength of his life, of whom then should he be afraid?"*
Theirs is an instructing fear. "The fear of the Lord," Solomon says,
* Psalm xxvii. 1.
It shows us
the beginning of wisdom." the true value of everything. While a man fears not God, he "walks in a vain show, and disquiets himself in vain,” he is in a constant state of worry and anxiety about little things-he has no one to show him the unsatisfactory nature of these things; and though one plan fails, he runs eagerly after another-ever pursuing a shadow of happiness, but ignorant and destitute of the "true riches." But when once we are taught to fear God, and to consider it our first object to please Him, and when we become persuaded of the truth of his promises that "all things shall work together for good to them that love" Him, we have learned a lesson which will contribute more to our wisdom in matters of this life, and to our knowledge of that which is to come, than all the mere teaching in the world could give us. The fear of God is the best schoolmaster and they know most of his will, who, acting under a fear of Him, strive to do that which is pleasing in his sight;
for our Lord Jesus Christ saith,
man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God."*
Once more, theirs is a supporting fear in life and in death. He who is conscious that he has endeavoured to preserve a sense of God's presence in his recollection while he was in health and strength, may hope to feel less awe at the idea of going to stand before Him at his judgment-seat, than one who has all his life endeavoured to banish all fear of God from his heart, and to forget Him until compelled by sickness and the approach of death to remember Him. If he who has feared God cannot but feel a certain awe and dread of that tremendous hour which shall summon him to give up his account unto the great Being whom, after all his best endeavours, he knows he has but too often forgotten and offended, what must be the fear and horror of that man who has mocked and despised religion all his life, and who is now going, with all his sins of
* St. John vii. 17.
omission and commission upon his head, to see Him whom he has never sought to please, or feared to provoke, before.
My brethren, let me recommend to you this preventing, assisting, comforting, instructing, and supporting fear of God, which those men had whom my text speaks of; and now observe their conduct. "They spake often one to another." Having many common subjects of interest, and the uniting bond of the "fear of God," they were wont to meet together and to speak to each other for their mutual comfort, assistance, and counsel; we may imagine that they took counsel with each other how best they might honour God in their own lives, and extend their fear of God among their careless and profane countrymen; they considered each other's conduct and conversation "to provoke one another unto love and to good works, not forsaking the assembling of themselves together ;"*-they too, like you, brethren, might have formed a society among them* Hebrews x. 24, 25.
selves for their support, and the advantage of their families, in the event of sickness or want do you, like them, bring the fear of the Lord to act upon your conduct— banish from you needless excess-make a rule against any wilful breaking of God's commandments. You cannot, indeed, make men religious, but you may at least prevent them from being openly profane or vicious, and in the end your club will be the gainer in purse, and you will be more respectable, more useful, more loyal subjects, better husbands, fathers, and sons above all this, the blessing of Almighty God will surely rest upon you and yours, for it rested upon the men mentioned in my text, as we will now shortly observe.
II. "The Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name."
The doings and language of men do not pass unheeded above. We have here direct and positive mention of the notice that Almighty God taketh of them; nay