A Treatise On The Fear Of God (summary)
“Blessed Is Every One That Feareth The Lord.” — Psa. 128: 1
“Fear God.” — Rev. 14: 7
Introduction: The Direction to Fear God is Found Throughout the Scripture.
A The Scripture presents us with God the Creator and Sustainer
1 He is incomprehensible power.
2 He has knowledge of all as judge.
B Thus, he will either be Savior or Judge
1 Thus, “we are in reason and duty bound to give the more earnest heed to the things that shall be spoken, and be the more careful to receive them, and put them in practice”
2 All our concern of him must be with godly fear.
Part One: What Does Fear Mean?
Bunyan proposes two basic propositions.
FIRST. Then by this word fear we are to understand even God himself, who is the object of our fear.
SECOND. By this word fear we are to understand the Word of God, the rule and director of our fear. Now to speak to this word fear, as it is thus taken.
This Word Fear As Taken For God Himself.
I Of this word “fear,” AS IT RESPECTETH GOD HIMSELF, who is the object of our fear.
A By this word fear, as I said, we are to understand God himself, who is the object of our fear:
1 Jacob swore by God as “the fear of Isaac” Gen. 31:42 & 53.
2 There are two aspects of God as “fear”
a God may well be called the fear of his people, not only because they have by his grace made him the object of their fear,
b but because of the dread and terrible majesty that is in him. “
c He is a mighty God, a great and terrible, and with God is terrible majesty” (Dan. 7:28, 10:17; Neh. 1: 5, 4:14, 9:32; Job. 37:22). Who knows the power of his anger?
B There are these things that make God to be the fear of his people.
1 First. His presence is dreadful,
a When God comes to bring a soul news of mercy and salvation, even that visit, that presence of God, is fearful. E.g., Jacob at Beersheba Gen. 28:10-17; Gen. 32:30.
b Man crumbles to dust at the presence of God; yea, though he shows himself to us in his robes of salvation. We have read how dreadful and how terrible even the presence of angels have been unto men, and that when they have brought them good tidings from heaven (Jud. 13:22; Mat. 28: 4; Mar. 16: 5, 6). [If Angels are fearful, how much more God.] Dan. 10:16-17
2 And there are three things that in an eminent manner make his presence dreadful to us.
a The first is God’s own greatness and majesty; the discovery of this, or of himself thus, even as no poor mortals are able to conceive of him, is altogether unsupportable. Rev. 1:17; Job 13:21-22….The presence of a king is dreadful to the subject, yea, though he carries it never so condescendingly; if then there be so much glory and dread in the presence of the king, what fear and dread must there be, think you, in the presence of the eternal God?
b By the presence of God, when we have it indeed, even our best things, our comeliness, our sanctity and righteousness, all do immediately turn to corruption and polluted rags. The brightness of his glory dims them as the clear light of the shining sun puts out the glory of the fire or candle, and covers them with the shadow of death. Is. 6:1-5
c They “shall fear the Lord and his goodness” (Hos. 3: 5). The goodness as well as the greatness of God doth beget in the heart of his elect an awful reverence of his majesty. Jer. 5:22, 33:8-9; Job 42:5-6
Excursus: Alas! there is a company of poor, light, frothy professors in the world, that carry it under that which they call the presence of God, more like to antics, than sober sensible Christians; yea, more like to a fool of a play, than those that have the presence of God. [They would never treat an important human being like that.]
[Such people would object] But would you not have us rejoice at the sight and sense of the forgiveness of our sins?
Answer: Yes; but yet I would have you, and indeed you shall, when God shall tell you that your sins are pardoned indeed, “rejoice with trembling” (Psa. 2:11; Dt. 28:58)
2 Second. As the presence, so the name of God, is dreadful and fearful:
a [A name refers to what a thing is]
b And therefore it is that the name of God is the object of our fear, because by his name his nature is expressed: “Holy and reverend is his name” (Psa. 111: 9); Ex. 34:6-7; Ps. 86:11.
i Indeed, the name of God is a fearful name, and should always be reverenced by his people: Ps. 102:15.
ii Yea, when Christ comes to judge the world, he will give reward to his servants the prophets, and to his saints, “and to them that fear his name, small and great” (Rev. 11:18). Now, I say, since the name of God is that by which his nature is expressed, and since he naturally is so glorious and incomprehensible, his name must needs be the object of our fear, and we ought always to have a reverent awe of God upon our hearts at what time soever we think of, or hear his name, but most of all, [in worship and prayer]
3 Third. As the presence and name of God are dreadful and fearful in the church, so is his worship and service.
a I say his worship, or the works of service to which we are by him enjoined while we are in this world, are dreadful and fearful things. Ps. 2:11, 5:7; Ex. 15:11; 2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 12.
i That which makes the worship of God so fearful a thing, is, for that it is the worship of GOD: all manner of service carries more or less dread and fear along with it, according as the quality or condition of the person is to whom the worship and service is done.
ii Besides, this glorious Majesty is himself present to behold his worshippers in their worshipping him.
iii Above all things, God is jealous of his worship and service.
iv The judgments that sometimes God hath executed upon men for their want of godly fear, while they have been in his worship and service, put fear and dread upon his holy appointments.
I Nadab and Abihu were burned to death with fire from heaven, because they attempted to offer false fire upon God’s altar, and the reason rendered why they were so served, was, because God will be sanctified in them that come nigh him (Lev. 10: 1-3).
II Eli’s sons, for want of this fear, when they ministered in the holy worship of God, were both slain in one day by the sword of the uncircumcised Philistines (see 1 Samuel 2).
III Uzzah was smitten, and died before the Lord, for but an unadvised touching of the ark, when the men forsook it (1Ch. 13: 9, 10).
IV Ananias and Sapphira his wife, for telling a lie in the church, when they were before God, were both stricken dead upon the place before them all, because they wanted the fear and dread of God’s majesty, name, and service, when they came before him (Acts 5).
V This therefore should teach us to conclude, that, next to God’s nature and name, his service, his instituted worship, is the most dreadful thing under heaven. His name is upon his ordinances, his eye is upon the worshippers, and his wrath and judgment upon those that worship not in his fear. For this cause some of those at Corinth were by God himself cut off, and to others he has given the back, and will again be with them no more
Excursus: Three sorts of people rebuked.
- Such as regard not to worship God at all; be sure they have no reverence of his service, nor fear of his majesty before their eyes.
- This rebukes such as count it enough to present their body in the place where God is worshipped, not minding with what heart, or with what spirit they come thither.
- This also rebukes those that care not, so they worship, how they worship; how, where, or after what manner they worship God. Those, I mean, whose fear towards God “is taught by the precept of men.” They are hypocrites; their worship also is vain, and a stink in the nostrils of God.
Thus I conclude this first thing, namely, that God is called our dread and fear.