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THE DUTY OF FEARING GOD.
Deut. xxviii. 58, 59. If thou wilt not observe to do all the words
of this Law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear that glorious and fearful name, The Lord thy God; then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful.
WE admire the fidelity of Moses, who “ declared to Israel the whole counsel of God,” “not withholding from them any thing whereby they might be profited.” To deliver such warnings as are contained in this chapter, must have been inexpressibly painful to him. But he had no alternative, unless indeed he would subject himself to all the curses here denounced; and involve himself, as well as them, in all the consequences of his unfaithfulness and concealment. Brethren, the same necessity lies on us also: we must, at the peril of our souls, deliver all that God has commissioned us to declare: and, if we fail to do so, not only will “ you perish in your iniquities, but your blood will be required at our hands." Bear with me, then, I pray you, whilst with becoming fidelity I set before
you, I. What God requires of us
God is indeed a great and glorious Being, “a God of terrible majesty,"
b" “ before whom the pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof." And he requires that “ we fear his glorious and fearful name.” He requires that we regard him, 1. With reverential awe
[Truly “he is greatly to be feared, and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him.” When he came down upon Mount Sinai in the presence of all Israel, not a soul except Moses was suffered to approach him: and, if even a beast had touched the mountain, it must immediately be slain. So great was the terror which his presence inspired, that even “ Moses himself said, I exceedingly fear and quaked.” And he is still the same God, though he do not manifest himself in the same way. Yes, under the New Testament, as well a Ezek. xxxiii. 8.
b Job xxxvii. 22. c Job xxvi. 11.
d Heb. xii. 20, 21.
as the Old, we are taught to bear this in mind, that “our God is a consuming fire, and never to be approached but with reverence and godly feare"] 2. With obediential love
[This is the point more especially noticed in the passage before us: and wherever the fear of God is, it must of necessity manifest itself in this way. There will be a real desire to please God; and a full conviction, that every command of his is “holy, and just, and good.” Nothing will be deemed “ an hard saying;” nothing be accounted “grievous.” We shall not wish for any limit to our obedience; but shall regard the entire surrender of our souls to him as a reasonable service. This is the conclusion to which Solomon came, after carefully weighing the whole matter: “ Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty (and end, and happiness) of man'."] 3. With undivided attachment
[God will not endure a rival in our affections. He must have the whole heart: and the person who shall dare to offer him “a divided heart, shall surely be found guilty before him 6." It is true, we do not give way to gross idolatry, like those to whom our text was addressed: but if we look into “ the chambers of imagery” within us, we shall find as many idols as ever were worshipped in the time of Israel's most determined apostasyh. And “God is still, as he ever was, a jealous God," that “will not have his glory given to another:” yea, “ his very name is, Jealousi.” Know, then, that
you must not " set your affections on any thing here below," but have them all concentrated on him, fearing nothing, desiring nothing, confiding in nothing, in comparison of him. Father, mother, wife and children, houses and lands, yea, and our own life also, must all be subordinated to him, and sacrificed for him, whensoever our duty to him shall call for it. We must love and serve him, him supremely, him only, him exclusively.]
Hear, then, I entreat you, II. What we must expect at his hands, if we comply
not with his requisitionThe Lord made the plagues of his people truly wonderful. Never since the world began was any nation visited with such heavy judgments as they", nor will there ever be the like again, even to the end
e Heb. xii. 28, 29.
1 Eccl. xi. 13.
8 Hos. x. 2.
of time! They are, and were designed to be," a sign unto usm.” Truly, then, if we fear not God,
our plagues also shall be wonderful.” They shall be wonderful, 1. Here
[Look at the different nations of the world, and see what tormentors they are to each other. Behold also the famines, pestilences, earthquakes, which God sends at different times, as “ avengers of his quarrel” with those who rebel against him. See, too, the whole frame of society, whether in larger bodies or in private families; and behold what feuds obtain amongst them, insomuch that there is scarcely a body to be found, the members of which are not arrayed more or less in mutual hostility, and contributing to each other's disquiet. Take all the different individuals of mankind; there is scarcely one who has attained the age of manhood, or, at all events, been long settled in the world, without having, in some respect or other, his very life embittered to him, so that at times, if there had been no future state of existence, he would have almost wished for death as a release from his troubles. Mark the tempers which agitate men's minds, and the curse which there is even upon their blessings, insomuch that those who most abound in this world's goods are not unfrequently the most miserable of mankind. Thus, even in this world, does God fulfil his threatening in our text, and “ make our plagues wonderful."] 2. Hereafter
[Who can conceive a soul, at its first entrance into the invisible world, beholding all at once the face of an angry and avenging God? How does it start back from him, and cry to rocks and mountains to hide it from his presence! Who can conceive that soul hearing from its Judge those terrific words, “ Depart, accursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels?” Who can conceive hell opening for its reception, and the man cast, body and soul, “ into the lake of fire and brimstone," " where the worm of an accusing conscience never dieth, and the fire is never quenched?” Who can conceive the soul's retrospect of the mercies it has despised, and the opportunities it has for ever lost? and, above all, who can conceive its prospects of eternity, as the duration of all the misery to which it is consigned? Say, Beloved, whether then the plagues will not be wonderful? Now they may be laughed at and despised: but when this cup of God's indignation shall be put into the sinner's hands, and he is left to drink it to the
the two ye
very dregs, there will be an end of all his laughter, and to all eternity will he be occupied in “weeping and wailing and gnashing his teeth."] BEHOLD, then[“ I now set life and death before you.” Say, which of
will choose. If ye doubt the fulfilment of God's threatenings, read the sad catalogue of woes that were denounced against the Jews, and tell me if so much as one of them has failed of its accomplishment. Indeed, my Brethren, every
Jew you see is a witness for God, that His word shall be fulfilled in all its fearful extent
But, on the other hand, let me say, that the converse of our text is also true. Yes, if you fear and obey the Lord, your blessings also shall be wonderful. Even in this world “the peace of God's obedient people passeth all understanding,” and their joy is often unspeakable and glorified. And if you could follow a believing soul into the eternal world ; if you could behold it when first it is introduced into the presence of its God and Saviour; if you could see it, whilst the Judge of quick and dead is pronouncing that laudatory sentence, " Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord;" if, further, you could behold it in the very bosom of its God, invested with a happiness which can never be interrupted, and a glory that shall never end; then you would say that its blessedness is truly wonderful. Why, then, brethren, should you not seek this bliss? Why will you cast it all away, and treasure up for yourselves the sad alternative, even the misery that shall endure for evermore? I
pray you, be wise in time; and consider your latter end, ere it be too late! And I pray God, that what has been spoken may now be so impressed upon your minds, that that which took place in Jerusalem may never be realized in you: “ She remembered not her latter end; therefore she came down wonderfully . "]
n Lam. i. 9.
CCXXI. MEN'S BLINDNESS IN SPIRITUAL THINGS. Deut. xxix. 4. The Lord hath not given you an heart to per
ceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day. THERE is nothing more comforting to a minister, than to see “ the word of the Lord running and glorified” amongst the people of his charge. On the other hand, it is extremely painful to him to find that his labours have been in a great measure in vain. Yet such are the reflections which many a faithful minister is led to make, after an attentive survey of his ministrations. The Prophet Isaiah felt occasion to lament this, in his day; saying, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed a ?” Our blessed Lord had but too much reason to make a similar complaint respecting the issue of his labours also”. Thus we find Moses, after the most indefatigable exertions for the space of forty years, constrained to adopt towards the Jewish people the language of my text; “ The Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.” Would to God that there were not grounds, also, for similar complaint amongst you, my Brethren! But Christian fidelity compels me to declare, that to a most lamentable extent these words are verified in this place : and, of course, I must open to you the complaint, I. As uttered by Moses against the people of his
chargeThey had “ seen” with their bodily eyes all the wonders that had been wrought for them in Egypt and the wilderness
But they had no spiritual perception of them. They understood not, 1. The true character of that dispensation
[They viewed the various occurrences as so many separate and detached events; and had no idea of their figurative import, no conception of them as shadows of good things to come. They saw not that more wonderful redemption which was typically exhibited to their view. The paschal lamb led them not to the contemplation of their Messiah, and of the deliverance which he should effect through the shedding, and the sprinkling, of his most precious blood. Their subsistence by manna, and by water from the rock, served not to shew them what it was to live by faith on the Son of God, or to experience in their souls the refreshing communications of the Spirit of God. And though they had already seen a portion given to three of their tribes, yet did they not contemplate the issue of a believer's warfare in the possession of the heavenly Canaan. As for the Law that had been given them, whether the moral or ceremonial law, they knew not the true a Isai. liii. 1.
b John xii. 37, 38.