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let his fear, I say, possess all our hearts, and it will certainly expel that ignoble and base fear of the wrath of man. See how the prophet opposes them in the 8th of Isaiah, fear not their fear (says he) nor be afraid, but sanctify the Lord, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread; fear not, but fear. This holy fear begets the best courage; the breast that is most filled with it, abounds most in true magnanimity. Fear thus, that you may be confident, not in yourselves, though your policy and strength were great, (cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm) but confident in that God, who is too wise and vigilant to be surprized, too mighty to be foiled, and too rich to be out-spent in provision; who can suffer his enemy to come to the highest point of apparent advantage, without any inconvenience, yea, with more renown in his conquest. And so a christian who is made once sure of this (as easily he may) is little careful about the rest, his love to God prevailing over all his affections, makes him very indifferent what becomes of himself or his dearest friends, so God may be glorified. What though many fall in the quarrel (which God avert) yet it is sufficient that truth in the end shall be victorious. Have not the saints in all ages been content to convey pure religion to posterity, in streams of their own blood, not of others? Well, hold fast by this conclusion, that God can limit and bind up the most violent wrath of man, that though it swell it will not break forth. The stiffest heart, as the current of the most impetuous rivers, is in his hand, to appoint its channels, and turn it as he pleaseth. Yea, it is he that hath shut up the very sea with bars and doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou come and no further, here shall thy proud waves be stayed. To see the surges of a rough sea come in towards the shore, a man would think that they were hastening to swallow up the land, but they know their limits, and are beaten back into foam. Job xxxviii. 10, 11.
Though the waves thereof toss themselves as angry at their restraint, yet the small sand is a check to the great sea, yet can they not prevail, though they roar, yet can they not pass over it, says Jeremiah v. 22.
The sum is this: what God permits his church's enemies to do, is for his own further glory; and reserving this, there is not any wrath of man so great, but he will either sweetly calm it, or strongly restrain it. To him be praise, &c.
He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fired, trusting in the Lord.
LL the special designs of men agree in this,
they seek satisfaction and quietness of mind, that is, happiness. This then is the great question, Who is the happy man? It is here resolved, rer. 1. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delightcth in his commandments.
The blessedness is unfolded as a rich landskip, that we may view the well mixed colours, the stoту ry and tissue of it, through the whole alphabet in capital letters. And take all and set them together, it is a most full compleat blessedness, not a letter wanting to it *. Amongst the rest, that we have in these words is of a greater magnitude and brightness than many of the rest, He shall not be afraid of evil tidings.
Weil may it begin with a Hallelujah, a note of praise to Him in whom this blessedness lies. O what a wretched creature were man, if not provided to such a portion, without which is nothing but disappointment; and thence the racking torment and vexation of a disquieted mind, still pursuing somewhat that he never overtakes.
The first words are the inscription, The blessedness of that man ! &c. So the particulars follow: Where outward blessings are so set, as that they look
* This Psalm in the Hebrew consists of 22 short verses, each of which begins with the letters of the alphabet in their order, till they are all ended. No one letter is here omitted, as is the case in the 25th Psalm where the same order is observed.
and lead higher, pointing at their end, the infinite goodness whence they flow, and whither they return and carry along with them this happy man.
And these promises of outward things are often evidently accomplished to the righteous, and their seed after them, and that commonly after they have been brought very low.. But when it is otherwise with them, they lose nothing. It is good for many, yea, it is good for all the godly that have less of these lower things, to raise their eye to look after higher, the eye of all, both of these that are held somewhat short, and for those that have abundance in the world.
These temporal promises were more abounding and more frequently fulfilled, 'in their very kind, in the times of the law, yet still the right is constant, and all ages do give clear examples of the truth of this word. Where it is thus, it is a blessing created by its aspect to this promise, and so differs from the prosperity of ungodly men; and where it is otherwise with the righteous and their seed, it is no shift, but a most solid comfort, to turn their eyes to a higher compensation.
But howsoever it go, this still holds, He shall not be afraid of evil tidings. Notwithstanding the hardest news that can come to his ears, of any thing that concerns himself or his children, or the rest of God's children in his charge in the world, His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.
First, let us take a little of the character of this blessed man.
Who is it that is thus undaunted ? The man that feareth God.
All the passions are but several ebbings and flowings of the soul, and their motions are the signs of its temper. Which way it is carried, that is mainly to be remarked by the beating of its pulse. If our desires, and hopes, and fears, be in the things of this world, and the interest of flesh, this is their distemper and disorder, the soul is in a continual fever : But if they move Godwards, then is it com
posed and calm, in a good temper and healthful point, fearing and loving him, desiring him, and nothing but him, waiting for him, and trusting in him. And when any one affection is right, and in a due aspect to God, all the rest are so too: For they are radically one, and he is the life of that soul that is united to him; and so in him it moves in a peculiar spiritual manner, as all do naturally in the dependence of their natural life, on him that is the fountain of life.
Thus we have here this fear of God, as often elsewhere, set out as the very substance of holiness and evidence of happiness. And that we may know there is nothing either base or grievous in this fear, we have joined with it, Delight and trust; delighteth greatly in his commandments: Which is that badge of love to him, to observe them, and that with delight, and with exceeding great delight. So then, the fear is not that which love casts out, but that which love brings in. This fear follows and flows from love, a fear to offend, whereof nothing so tender as love; and that. in respect of the great ness of God, hath in it withal a humble reverence. There is in all love a kind of reverence, a cautious and respective wariness towards the party loved; but especially in this, where not only we stand in a lower relation, as children to our father, but the goodness that draws our love doth infinitely transcend our measures and reach, therefore there is a rejoicing with trembling, and an awful love, the fearing the Lord and his goodness. This both fear and trust, the heart touched by the Spirit of God, as the needle touched with the load-stone, looks straight and speedily to God, yet still with trembling, being filled with this holy fear,
That delighteth] Oh! this is not only to do them, but to do them with delight; somewhat within is connatural and symbolical: Yea, this very law itself is writ within, not standing as a hard
Hos. iii. ult.