Having thus briefly handled, in particular, thus far this fear of God, I shall now show you certain of the excellent privileges of those that fear the Lord: not that they are not privileges that have been already mentioned; for what greater privilege than to have this fear producing in the soul such excellent things, so necessary for us for good, both with reference to this world and that which is to come; but because those fourteen effects set forth in the preceding chapter, do rather flow from this grace of fear where it is, than from a promise to the person that hath it, therefore I have chosen rather to discourse of them as the fruits and effects of fear than otherwise. Now, besides all these, there are entailed by promise to the man that hath this fear, many other blessed privileges, the which I shall now, in a brief way, lay open unto you.
1. First, then, that man that feareth the Lord has a grant and a licence to trust in the Lord, with an affirmation that the Lord is his help and his shield. "Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield," Psa. cxv. 11. Now, what a privilege is this! An exhortation in general to sinners, as sinners, to trust in him, is a privilege great and glorious; but for a man to be singled out from his neighbours, for a man to be spoken to from heaven, as it were by name, and to be told that God hath given him a licence, a special and peculiar grant to trust in him, this is abundantly more, and yet this is the grant that God hath given that man. He hath, I say, a licence to do it, a licence indited by the Holy Ghost, and left upon record for those to be bom that shall fear the Lord to trust in him. And not only so, but as the text affirms, he is their help and their shield. Their help under all their weaknesses and infirmities, and a shield to defend them against all the assaults of the devil and this world. So then, the man that feareth the Lord is licensed to make the Lord his stay, and the God of his salvation the succour and deliverer of his soul. He will defend him because his fear is in his heart. O ye servants of the Lord, ye that fear him, live in the comfort of this, boldly make use of it when you are in straits, and put your trust under the shadow of his wings, for indeed he would have you do so, because you do fear the Lord.
2. God hath also proclaimed concerning the man that feareth the Lord, that he will also be his teacher and guide in the way that he shall choose; and hath moreover promised concerning such, that their soul shall dwell at ease. "What man is he that feareth the Lord?" said David, " him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose," Psa. xxv. 12.
Now, to be taught of God, what is like it? yea, what like to being taught in the way that thou shalt choose? Thou hast chosen the way to life, God's way, but perhaps thy ignorance about it is so great, and those that tempt thee to turn aside so many, and so subtle, that they seem to outwit thee, and confound thee with their guile. Well, but the Lord whom thou fcarest will not leave thee to thy ignorance, nor yet to thine enemies power or subtlety, but will take it upon himself to be thy teacher and thy guide, and that in the way that thou hast chosen. Hear then, and behold thy privilege, 0 thou that fearest the Lord; and whoever wanders, or turns aside, or swerveth from the way of salvation, whoever is benighted and lost in the midst of darkness, thou shalt find the way to the heaven and the glory that thou hast chosen.
Further; He doth not only say that he will teach those the way, for that must of necessity be supplied, but he says also that he will teach such in it; "Him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose." This argueth that, as thou shalt know, so the way shall be made, by the communion that thou shalt have with God therein, sweet and pleasant to thee. For this text promiseth unto the man that feareth the Lord, the presence, company, and discovery of the mind of God, while he is going in the way that he hath chosen. It is said of the good scribe, that he is instructed unto, as well as into the way of the kingdom of God, Matt. xiii. 52. "Instructed unto," that is, he hath the heart and mind of God still discovered to him in the way that he hath chosen, even all the way from this world to that which is to come, even until he shall come to the very gate and door of heaven. What the disciples said was the effect of the presence of Christ, namely, that their hearts did burn within them while he talked to them by the way, Luke xxiv. 32, shall be also fulfilled in thee; he will meet with thee in the way, talk with thee in the way, he will teach thee in the way that thou shalt choose.
3. Dost thou fear the Lord? he will open his secret unto thee, even that which he hath hid, and kept close from all the world; namely, the secret of his covenant, and of thy concern therein. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant," Psa. xxv. 14. This then further confirms what was said before; his secret shall be with them, and his covenant shall be shown unto them.
His secret, namely, that which hath been kept hid from ages and generations, that which he manifesteth only to the saints, or holy ones; that is, his Christ, for he it is that is hid in God, and that no man can know but he to whom the Father shall reveal him.
But, oh! what is there wrapped up in this Christ, this secret of God! why, all the treasures of life, of heaven, and happiness. "In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," Col. ii. 3; yea, "in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," ver. 9.
He also is that hidden One, who is so full of grace to save sinners, and so full of truth and faithfulness to keep promise and covenant with them, that their eyes must needs convey, even by every glance they make upon his person, offices, and relation, such affecting ravishments to the heart, that it would please those that see him, even to be killed with that sight.
This secret of the Lord shall be; nay, is with those that fear him, for he dwelleth in their heart by faith. "And he will show them his covenant;" that is, the covenant that is confirmed of God in Christ, that everlasting and eternal covenant; and show him too, that he himself is wrapped up therein as in a bundle of life with the Lord his God. These are the thoughts, purposes, and promises of God to those that fear him.
4. Dost thou fear the Lord? His eye is always over thee for good, to keep thee from all evil. "Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine," Psa. xxxiii. 18, 19.
His eye is upon them, that is, to watch over them for good. "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep," Psa. cxxi. 4. His eyes are upon them, and he will keep them as a shepherd doth his sheep; that is, from those wolves that seek to devour them, and to swallow them up in death. His eyes are upon them, for they are the objects of his delight, the rarities of the world, in whom is all his delight. His eye is upon them, as I said before, to teach and instruct them; "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye," Psa. xxxii. 8. The eye of the Lord, therefore, is upon them; not to take advantage of them, to destroy them for their sins, but to guide, to help and deliver them from death, from that death that would feed upon their souls. "To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine," Psa. xxx. 19. Take death here for death spiritual and death eternal, and the famine here, not for that which is for want of bread and water, but for that which comes on many for want of the word of the Lord, and then the sense is this:—The man that feareth the Lord, shall neither die spiritually nor eternally, for God will keep him with his eye from all those things that would in such a manner kill him. Again; should there be a famine of the word, should there want both the word and those that preach it in the place where thou dost dwell, yet bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure; thou shalt not die of the famine because thou fearest God. I say that man shall not, behold he shall not, because he fears God; and this the next head doth yet more fully manifest.
5. Dost thou fear God? Fear him for this advantage more and more. "O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing," Psa. xxxiv. 9, 10. Not anything that God sees good for them, shall those men want that fear the Lord. If health will do them good; if sickness will do them good; if riches will do them good; if poverty will do them good; if life will do them good; if death will do them good; then they shall not want them: neither shall any of these come nigh them, if they will not do them good.
"The lions," that is, the wicked people of the world, that fear not God, are not made sharers in this great privilege; all things fall out to them contrary, because they fear not God. In the midst of their sufficiency they are in want of that good that God puts into the worst things that the man that feareth God doth meet with in the world.
6. Dost thou fear God? He hath given charge to the armies of heaven to look after, take charge of, to encamp about, and to deliver thee. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them," Psa. xxxiv. 7. This also is a privilege entailed to them, that in all generations fear the Lord. The angels, the heavenly creatures have it in commission to take the charge of those that fear the Lord; and one of them is able to slay in one night 185,000 men. These are they that encamped about Elisha like horses of fire and chariots of fire when the enemy came to destroy him. They also helped Hezekiah against the band of the enemy, because he feared God, 2 Kings vi. 17; Isa. xxxvii. 36.
The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them; that is, lest the enemy should set upon them on any side: but let him come where he will, behind or before, on this side or that, the angel of the Lord is there to defend them.
"The angel." It may be spoken in the singular number, perhaps, to show that every one that feareth God hath his angel to attend on him and serve him. When the church, in the Acts, was told that Peter stood at the door and knocked; at first they counted the messenger mad, but when she did. constantly affirm it, they said, "It is his angel," Acts xii. 15. So Christ saith of the children that came unto him, "Their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven," Matt, xviii. 10. "Their angels;" that is, those of them that feared God, had each of them his angel, who had a charge from God to keep them in their way. We little think of this, yet this is the privilege of those that fear the Lord; yea, if need be they shall all come down to help them, and to deliver them, rather than contrary to the mind of their God they should by any be abused. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation," Heb. i. 14.
But how do they deliver them? for so says the text, "The angel of the Lord encampeth about them that fear him, and delivereth them."
Ans. The way that they take to deliver those that fear the Lord, is sometimes by smiting their enemies with blindness, that they may not find them. And so they served the enemies of Lot, Gen. six. 11. Sometimes by smiting them with deadly fear, and so they served those that laid siege against Samaria, 2 Kings vii. 6; and sometimes by smiting them even with death itself, and thus they served Herod, after he had attempted to kill the apostle James, and also sought to vex certain others of the church, Acts xii. 23. These angels that are servants to those that fear the Lord, are those that will, if God doth bid them, revenge the quarrel of his servants upon the stoutest monarch on earth. This, therefore, is a glorious privilege of the men that fear the Lord. Alas, they are some of them so mean, that they are counted not worth taking notice of by the high ones of the world, but their betters do respect them, the angels of God count not themselves too good to attend on them, and encamp about them to deliver them. This, then, is the man that hath his angel to wait upon him, even he that feareth God.
7. Dost thou fear the Lord? Salvation is nigh unto thee. "Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land," Psa. lxxxv. 9.
This is another privilege for those that fear the Lord. I told you before, that the angel of the Lord did encamp about them, but now, it is said, his salvation is also nigh them; the which, although it doth not altogether exclude the conduct of angels, but include them, yet it looketh further. Surely his salvation, his saving pardoning grace, is nigh those that fear him; that is, to save them out of the hand of their spiritual enemies. The devil, sin, and death do always wait even to devour those that fear the Lord, but to deliver them from these, his salvation doth attend them. So then, if Satan tempts, here is their salvation nigh; if sin, by breaking forth, beguiles them, here is God's saltion nigh them; yea, if death itself shall suddenly seize upon them, here is their God's salvation nigh them.
8. Dost thou fear the Lord? Hearken yet again; "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children," Psa. ciii. 17. This still confirms what was last asserted, that is, that his salvation is nigh unto them. His salvation, that is, pardoning mercy, that is nigh them. But mind this, there it is said, it is nigh them; but here, it is upon them. His mercy is "upon them;" it covereth them all over, it compasseth them about as with a shield. Therefore they are said, in another place, to be clothed with salvation, and covered with the robe of righteousness, Isa. hri. 10. The mercy of the Lord is upon them, to shelter and defend them. The mercy, the pardoning, preserving mercy, the mercy of the Lord, is upon them, who is he then that can condemn them?
But there yet is more behind; "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them." It was designed for them before the world was, and shall be upon them when the world itself is ended: from everlasting to everlasting it is upon them that fear him. This " from everlasting to everlasting " is that by which, in another place, the eternity of God himself is declared; "From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God," Psa. xc. 2. The meaning then may be this :—That so long as God hath his being, so long shall the man that feareth him find mercy at his hand. According to that word of Moses: "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them," Deut. xxxiii. 27.
Child of God, thou that fearest God, here is mercy nigh thee, mercy enough, everlasting mercy upon thee. This is long-lived mercy. It will live longer than thy sin; it will live longer than temptation; it will live longer than thy sorrows; it will live longer than thy persecutors. It is mercy from everlasting, to contrive thy salvation, and mercy to everlasting, to weather it out with all thy adversaries. Now, what can hell and death do to him that hath this mercy of God upon him? And this hath the man that i'eareth the 1 .ord.
Take that other blessed word, and O thou man that fearest the Lord, hang it like a chain of gold about thy neck. "As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him," Psa. ciii. 11. If mercy as big, as high, and as good as heaven itself will be a privilege, the man that feareth God shall have a privilege.
9. Dost thou fear God ?" Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him," Psa. ciii. 13.
"The Lord pitieth them that fear him;" that is, condoleth, and is affected; feeleth, and sympathized with them in all their afflictions. It is a great matter for a poor man to be in this manner in the affections of the great and mighty, but for a poor sinner to be thus in the heart and affections of God, (and those that fear him are so,) this is astonishing to consider. "In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old," Isa. lxiii. 9.
In that he is said to pity them, it is as much as to say he condoleth, feeleth, and sympathizeth with them in all their afflictions and temptations. So that this is the happiness of him that feareth God, he has a God to pity him, and to be touched with all his miseries. It is said, that "his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel," Judges x. 16. And in the Hebrews, he is said to be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and can succour those that are tempted, Heb. iv. 15.
But further, let us take notice of the comparison. "As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." Here is not only pity, but the pity of a relation, a father. It is said, in another place, "Can a woman" (a mother) "forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee," Isa. xlix. 15. The pity of neighbours and acquaintance helpeth in times of distress, but the pity of a father and a mother is pity with an over and above. "The Lord," says James, "is very pitiful, and of tender mercy," James v. 11. Pharaoh called Joseph his tender father, because he provided for him against the famine; but how tender a father is God! how full of bowels, how full of pity! It is said that when Ephraim was afflicted, God's bowels were troubled for him, and turned within him. towards him. Oh that the man that feareth the Lord did but believe the pity and compassion that are in the heart of God and his Father towards him.
10. Dost thou fear God? "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them," Psa. cxlv. 19.
Almost all those places that make mention of the men that fear God, do intimate as if they still were under affliction, or in danger by reason of an enemy. But here is still their privilege, their God is their Father, and pities them.
"He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him." Where, now, is the man that feareth the Lord? let him hearken to this. What sayest thou, poor soul, will this content thee? The Lord will fulfil thy desires. It is intimated of Adonijah, that David his father did let him have his will in all things. "His father," says the text, " had not displeased him at any time in" so much as "saying, Why hast thou done so," 1 Kings i. 6. But here is more, here is a promise to grant thee the whole desire of thy heart, according to the prayer of holy David, the Lord "grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel." And again; "The Lord fulfil all thy petitions," Psa. xx. 4, 5.
0 thou that fearest the Lord, what is thy desire? "All my desire," says David, "is all my salvation." So sayest thou, all my salvation is all my desire. Well, the desire of thy soul is granted thee, yea, God himself hath engaged himself even to fulfil this thy desire. "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them." Oh this desire, when it cometh, what a tree of life will it be to thee! Thou desirest to be rid of thy present trouble; the Lord shall rid thee out of trouble. Thou desirest to be delivered from temptation; the Lord shall deliver thee out of temptation. Thou desirest to be delivered from thy body of death; and the Lord shall change this thy vile body, that it may be like to his glorious body, Phil. iii. 21. Thou desirest to be in the presence of God, and among the angels in heaven. This thy desire also shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt be made equal to the angels. Oh! but it is long first. Well, learn first to live upon thy portion in the promise of it, and that will make thy expectation of it sweet. God will fulfil thy desires. God will do it: though it tarry long, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry, Hab. ii. 3.
11. Dost thou fear God? "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him," Psa. cxlvii. 11. Those that fear God are among his chief delights. He delights in his Son, he delights in his works, and takes pleasure in those that fear him. As a man takes pleasure in his wife, in his children, in his gold, in his jewels; so the man that fears the Lord is the object of his delight. He takes pleasure in their prosperity, and therefore sendeth them "health from the sanctuary," and makes them drink of the river of his pleasures. "They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures," Psa. xxxvi. 8.
That or those we take pleasure in, we love to beautify and adorn with many ornaments. We count no cost too much to be bestowed on those in whom we place our delight, and whom we make the object of our pleasure. And even thus it is with God; "For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people:" and what follows ?" He will beautify the meek with salvation," Psa. cxlix. 4.
Those in whom we delight, we take pleasure in their actions; yea, we teach them, and give them such rules and laws to walk by as may yet make those we love more pleasurable in our eyes. Therefore those that fear God, since they are the objects of his pleasure, are taught to know how to please him in every thing. And hence it is said, that he is ravished with their looks, that he delighteth in their cry, and that he is pleased with their walking.
Those in whom we delight and take pleasure, many things we will bear and put up that they do, though they be not according to our minds. A man will suffer that in, and put up that at the hand of the child or wife of his pleasure, that he will not pass by nor put up in another.
God, speaking of his people, says, "They shall .be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him," Mal. iii. 17.
Oh, how happy is the man that feareth God! His good thoughts, his good attempts to serve him, and his good life, please him, because he feareth God.
You know how pleasing in our eyes the actions of our children are, when we know that they do what they do even of a reverential fear and awe of us; yea, though that which they do amounts but to little, we take it well at their hands, and are pleased therewith. The woman that cast in her two mites into the treasury cast in not much, for they did but make one farthing; yet how doth the Lord Jesus trumpet her up. He had pleasure in her and in her action. This, therefore, that the Lord taketh pleasure in those that fear him, is another of their great privileges.
12. Dost thou fear God? The least portion of that fear giveth the privilege to be blessed with the greatest saint. "He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great," Psa. cxv. 13. This word small may be taken three ways:—
(1.) For those that are small in esteem; for those that are but little accounted of, Judges vi. 15. Art thou small or little in this sense, yet, if thou fearest God, thou art sure to be blessed. "He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great." Be thou never so small in the world's eyes, in thine own eyes, in the saints' eyes, (as sometimes one saint is little in another saint's eye,) yet thou, because thou fearest God, art put among the blessed.
(2.) By small, sometimes, is meant those that are but small of stature, or young in years, little children, that are easily passed by and looked over; as those that sang hosanna in the temple were, when the Pharisees deridingly said of them to Christ, "Hearest thou what these say?" Matt. xxi. 16. Well, but Christ would not despise those children that feared God, but preferred them, by the Scripture testimony, far before those that did contemn them. Little children, how small soever, and although of never so small esteem with men, shall also, if they fear the Lord, be blessed with the greatest saints. "He shall bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great."
(3.) By small may, sometimes, be meant those that are small in grace or gifts. These are said to be the least in the church, that is, under this consideration, and so are by it least esteemed. Thus also is that word of Christ to be understood, " Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me," Matt. xxv. 45.
Art thou, in thine own thoughts, or in the thoughts of others, of these last small ones? small in grace, small in gifts, small in esteem upon this account; yet if thou fearest God, if thou fearest God indeed, thou art certainly blest with the best of saints. The least star stands as fixed as the biggest of them all in heaven. "He shall bless them that fear him, both small and great." He shall bless them; that is, with the same blessing of eternal life: for the different degrees of grace in saints doth not make the blessing, as to its nature, differ. It is the same heaven, the same life, the same glory, and the same eternity of felicity that they are, in the text, promised to be blessed with. That is observable which I mentioned before, where Christ, at the day of judgment, particularly mentions and owns the least: "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least." The least, then, were there, in his kingdom and in his glory, as well as the biggest of all.
"He shall bless them that fear him, both small and great." The small are named first, in the text, and are so the first in rank, it may be to show, that though they may be slighted, and little set by in the world, yet they arc much set by in the eyes of the Lord.
Are great saints only to have the kingdom and the glory everlasting? Are great works only to be rewarded? works that are done by virtue of great grace and the abundance of the gifts of the Holy Ghost? No; "Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, He shall in no wise lose his reward," Matt. x. 42. Mark, here is but a little gift, a cup of cold water, and that given to a little saint, but both taken special notice of by our Lord Jesus Christ. He will give reward to his servants the prophets, and to his saints, and to those that fear his name, small and great, Rev. xi. 18.
The small, therefore, among those that fear God, are blessed with the great, and as the great, with the same salvation, the same glory, and the same eternal life; and they shall have, even as the great ones also shall, as much as they can carry, as much as their hearts, souls, bodies, and capacities can hold.
13. Dost thou fear God? Why, the Holy Ghost hath on purpose indited for thee a whole psalm to sing concerning thyself; so that thou mayest, even as thou art in thy calling, bed, journey, or wherever, sing out thine own blessed and happy condition to thine own comfort, and the comfort of thy fellows. The psalm is the 128th. I will set it before thee:—
"Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord. The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yea, thou shalt see thy children's children, and peace upon Israel."
And now I have done with the privileges when I have removed one objection.
Object. But the Scripture says, "Perfect love casteth out fear," 1 John iv. 18, and therefore it seems that saints, after that the Spirit of adoption is come, should not fear, but do their duty, as another Scripture saith, "without fear," Luke i. 74.
Ans. Fear, as I have showed you, may be taken several ways.
(1 ) It may be taken for the fear of devils.
(2.) It may be taken for the fear of reprobates. (3.) It may be taken for the fear that is wrought in the godly, by the Spirit as a Spirit of bondage. Or, (4.) It may be taken for the fear that I have been but now discoursing of.
Now, the fear that perfect love casts out cannot be that sunlike, gracious fear of God that I have in this last place been treating of; because that fear which love casts out hath torment; but so has not the sonlike fear. Therefore, the fear which love casts out is either that fear which is like the fear of devils and reprobates, or that fear which is begot in the heart by the Spirit of God as a Spirit of bondage, or both; for indeed all these kinds of fear have torment, and therefore may be cast out, and are so by the Spirit of adoption, which is called the Spirit of faith and love, when he comes with power into the soul. So that, without this fear we should serve him.
But to argue from these texts that we ought not to fear God, or to mix fear with our worship of him, is as much as to say that by the Spirit of adoption we are brought under condemnation, for he that does not fear God is in such a state. But for what I have affirmed the Scripture doth plentifully confirm, saying, "Happy is the man that feareth alway," Prov. xxviii. 14. And again, " It shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him," Eccles. viii. 12.
The fear of the Lord, therefore, is a grace that greatly beautifies a Christian, his words, and all his ways. "Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts," 2 Chron. xix. 1.