Jerry Bridges explains godliness as arising from devotion to God:
It is impossible to build a Christian behavior pattern without the foundation of a devotion to God. The practice of godliness is first of all the cultivation of a relationship with God, and from this the cultivation of a life that is pleasing to God. Our concept of God and our relationship with Him determine our conduct.
Jerry Bridges, The Practice of Godliness (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 1983), 17. That devotion entails three elements, “We have already seen that devotion to God consists of three essential elements: the fear of God, the love of God, and the desire for God.” The fear of God will regulate our conduct:
Not only will a right concept of the fear of God cause us to worship God aright, it will also regulate our conduct. As John Murray says, “What or whom we worship determines our behavior.”4The Reverend Albert N. Martin has said that the essential ingredients of the fear of God are (1) correct concepts of the character of God, (2) a pervasive sense of the presence of God, and (3) a constant awareness of our obligation to God.
Jerry Bridges, The Practice of Godliness (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 1983), 22–23. Thomas Watson makes a similar point in A Body of Divinity:
Labour to get the fear of God into your hearts, Prov. 16:6., “By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.” As the banks keep out the water, so the fear of the Lord keeps out uncleanness. Such as want the fear of God, want the bridle that should check them from sin. How did Joseph keep from his mistress’s temptation? The fear of God pulled him back, Gen. 39:9., “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” St. Bernard calls holy fear, janitor animæ,—‘the door-keeper of the soul.’ As a nobleman’s porter stands at the door, and keeps out vagrants, so the fear of God stands and keeps out all sinful temptations from entering.
Thomas Watson, The Select Works of the Rev. Thomas Watson, Comprising His Celebrated Body of Divinity, in a Series of Lectures on the Shorter Catechism, and Various Sermons and Treatises (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1855), 323.
In his 71st sermon on Psalm 119, Thomas Manton explains in detail how the fear of God leads to the right manner of life:
Doct. 1. The fear of God is the grand principle of obedience: Deut. 5:29, ‘Oh, that there were such an heart within them, that they would fear me and feep my commandments always.’ Here consider—
1. What is the fear of God.
2. What influence it hath upon obedience.
1. What is the fear of God? There is a twofold fear of God—servile and filial.
[1.] Servile, by which a man feareth God and hateth him, as a slave feareth his cruel master, whom he could wish dead, and himself rid of his service, and obeyeth by mere compulsion and constraint. Thus the wicked fear God because they have drawn an ill picture of him in their minds: Mat. 25:24, 25, ‘I knew thou wast a hard man, and I was afraid.’ They perform only a little unwilling and unpleasing service, and as little as they can, because of their ill conceit of God. So Adam feared God after his sin when he ran away from him, Gen. 3:10. Yea, so the devils fear God, and rebel against him: James 2:19, ‘The devils also believe and tremble.’ This fear hath torment in it to the creature, and hatred of God, because by the fear of his curse and the flames of hell he seeketh to drive them from sin.
[2.] Filial fear, as children fear to offend their dear parents; and thus the godly do so fear God, that they do also love him, and obey him, and cleave to him, and this preserveth us in our duty: Jer. 32:40, ‘I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me.’ This is a necessary frame of heart for all those that would observe and obey God. This fear is twofold:—
(1.) The fear of reverence.
(2.) The fear of caution.
(1.) The fear of reverence, when the soul is deeply possessed with a sense of God’s majesty and goodness, that it dareth not offend him. His greatness and majesty hath an influence upon this fear. ‘Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence, who have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it?’ Jer. 5:22. His goodness and mercy: Hosea 3:5, ‘They shall fear the Lord, and his goodness;’ Jer. 10:6, 7, ‘There is none like unto thee, O Lord; thou art great, and thy name is great in might: who would not fear thee, O king of nations?’ Both together engage us to live always as in his eye and presence, and in the obedience of his holy will, studying to please him in all things.
(2.) The fear of caution is also called the fear of God, when we carry on the business of salvation with all possible solicitude and care. For it is no easy thing to please God and save our souls: Phil. 2:12, ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.’ In the time of our sojourning here we meet with many temptations; baits without are many, and the flesh within us is importunate to be pleased, and our account at the end of the journey is very exact: 1 Peter 1:17, ‘And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.’ A false heart is apt to betray us, and the entertainments of sense to entice and corrupt us, and we are assaulted on every side, and salvation and eternal happiness is the thing in chase and pursuit; if we come short of it we are undone for ever: Heb. 4:1, ‘Having a promise of rest left with us, let us fear lest we come short of it.’ There is no mending errors in the other world; there we shall be convinced of our mistakes to our confusion, but not to our conversion and salvation.
2. The influence it hath upon keeping God’s precepts.
[1.] In general, this is one demonstration of it, that the most eminent servants of God have been commended for their fear of God: Job, chap. 1:1, is said to be ‘a man perfect and upright, one that feared God, and eschewed evil.’ He had a true godliness, or a filial awe of God, which kept him from sin, and the temptations whereby it might insinuate itself into his soul. So Obadiah, Ahab’s steward, is described to be a man ‘that feared God greatly,’ 1 Kings 18:3; and of one Hananiah it is said, Neh. 7:2, that ‘he feared God greatly, above many others.’ Men are more holy as the fear of God doth more prevail in their hearts, their tenderness both in avoiding and repenting of sin increaseth according as they entertain the awe and fear of God in their hearts, and here is the rise and fountain of all circumspect walking. As the stream is dried up that wanteth a fountain, so godliness ceaseth as the fear of God abateth.
[2.] More particularly.
(1.) It is the great pull-back and constant preservative of the soul against sin, as the beasts are contained in their subjection and obedience to man by the fear that is upon them: Gen. 7:2, ‘The dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, that they shall not hurt you;’ so the fear of God is upon us: Exod. 20:20, ‘God is come to prove you, that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.’ Joseph is an instance: Gen. 39:9, ‘How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ Abraham could promise himself little security in a place where no fear of God was: Gen. 20:11, ‘I thought surely the fear of God is not in this place, and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.’ Therefore, Prov. 23:17, ‘Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.’
(2.) It is the great excitement to obedience.
(1st.) Duties of religion will not reverently and seriously be performed unless there be a deep awe of God upon our souls: ‘God will be sanctified in all that draw nigh unto him,’ Lev. 10:3. Now, what is it to sanctify God in our hearts, but to fear his majesty and greatness and goodness? Isa. 8:13, ‘Sanctify the Lord God of hosts in your hearts, and make him your fear.’ Therefore David desireth God to call in his straggling thoughts and scattered affections: Ps. 86:11, ‘Unite my heart to the fear of thy name;’ so the serious worshippers are described to be those that ‘desire to fear his name,’ Neh. 1:11.
(2d.) Duties towards men will not be regarded in all times and places, unless the fear of God bear rule in our hearts; as servants, when their masters are absent, neglect their work: Col. 3:22, ‘Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God.’ A Christian is alike everywhere, because God is alike everywhere. He that feareth God needeth no other theatre than his own conscience, nor other spectators than God and his holy angels. So to hinder us from contriving mischief in secret, when others are not aware of it: Lev. 19:14, ‘Thou shalt not curse the deaf man, nor lay a stumbling-block before the blind, but shalt fear the Lord thy God.’ The deaf hear not, the blind seeth not; but God seeth and heareth, and that is enough to a gracious heart to bridle us when it is in our power to hurt others; as Joseph assureth his brethren he would be just to them, ‘for I fear God,’ Gen. 42:18. Nehemiah did not convert the public treasures to his private use: Neh. 5:15, ‘So did not I, for I fear God.’ This grace, when it is hazardous to be faithful to men, makes us to slight the danger: Exod. 1:17, ‘The midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them;’ that kept them from obeying that cruel edict, to their own hazard. Neither hope of gain nor fear of loss can prevail where men fear God.
(3d.) It breedeth zeal and diligence in the great and general business of our salvation, and maketh us more careful to approve ourselves unto God in our whole course, that we may be accepted of him: 2 Cor. 7:1, ‘Perfecting holiness in the fear of God.’ God is a great God, and will not be put off with anything, or served with a little religiousness by the by, but with more than ordinary care and zeal and diligence. Now, what inclineth us to this but the fear of God, or a reverence of his majesty and goodness? So Phil. 2:12, let us ‘work out our salvation with fear and trembling.’ Salvation is not to be looked after between sleeping and waking; no, it requireth our greatest attention, as having a sense of the weightiness of the work upon our hearts.
Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 7 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1872), 172–174.
But there is a fear of God which does not profit. It is a slavish fear of God which keeps one apart from God. When we see God’s greatness and our sin, it can result in despair which does not lead to repentance, “That sorrow for sin that keeps the soul from looking towards the mercy-seat, and that keeps Christ and the soul asunder, or that shall render the soul unfit for the communion of saints, is a sinful sorrow.” Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 10–11.
The difference lies in the nature of one’s relationship to God; am I concerned that I will lose God, or will I will be punished. Thomas Watson writes in the Great Gain of Godliness, “God is so great that teh Christian is afraid of displeasing him, and so good that he is afraid of losing him.” Or as Edwards writes:
277. FEAR OF GOD. Herein is the difference between a godly fear, or the fear of a godly man, and the fear of a sinner: the one fears the effects of God’s displeasure, the other fears his displeasure itself.
Jonathan Edwards, The “Miscellanies”: (Entry Nos. A–z, Aa–zz, 1–500), ed. Thomas A. Schafer and Harry S. Stout, Corrected Edition., vol. 13, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2002), 376.
Thomas Boston explains this the nature of the slavish fear, the fear which does not lead to godliness:
II. An use of exhortation, in several branches.
1. Fear the Lord; get and entertain a holy fear of God in your spirits. The profane and licentious lives of some, the carnal and loose hearts of others, proclaim a general want of this, Psalm 36:1, “The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.” but all fear of God is not a holy fear pleasing to God. There is a servile fear, and a filial fear. Not to the former, but to the latter, I exhort you.
Herewith some various difficulties and inquiries may arise, which we shall endeavour to answer, such as,
1. When is the fear of God only slavish? In answer to this-take the following observations: The fear of God is only slavish,
(1.) When it ariseth only from the consideration of God’s wrath as a just judge. This fear of God is to be found in the unconverted; they have the spirit of bondage again to fear, Rom. 8:15; yea, in the devils, they believe and tremble, Jam. 2:19; and if the conscience once be awakened, though the heart be not sanctified, this fear cannot miss to take place. It is a natural passion flowing from self-love and a sight of danger, which is so much the more vehement, in proportion as the danger apprehended is greater or smaller! nearer or more distant. One under this fear, fears God as the slave fears his master, because of the whip, which he is afraid of being lashed; he abstains from sin, not out of hatred of it, but because of the wrath of God annexed to it. An apprehension of God’s heavy hand on him here, or of hell and damnation hereafter, is the predominant motive of his fear of God, whom he fears only as an incensed Judge, and his powerful enemy.
(2.) When it checks or kills the love of God. There is a fear opposite to the love of God, which by this very character is discovered to be base and servile: 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect lore casteth out fear, because fear hath torment.” There is a necessary connection betwixt true fear and love, the one cannot be without the other; they are both links of the same chain of grace, which the Holy Spirit gives those whom he sanctifies; but slavish fear fills the heart with hard thoughts of God, and the more it prevails, the farther is the soul from the love of God.
(3.) When it drives the sinner away from God. Under its influence, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God, and Cain went out from his presence. All the graces of the Spirit, as they come from the Lord, so they carry the sinner back to him; so no doubt it is an ungracious fear of God that frights the sinner away from him; for they that seek and return to him, will fear him and his righteousness. This fear hath this effect in different degrees, and the higher the worse:—It takes heart and hand from persons in their approaches to God, 1 John 4:18, quoted already; it kills them before the Lord, knocks all confidence and hope in God on the head, so that their hearts at duty are like Nabal’s—dying within them, and become as a stone; so when they should run for their life, it cuts the sinews of their endeavours; when they would wrestle for the blessing, it makes their knees feeble, and their hands hang down.—It makes them first averse to duty, and then give up with it; they deal with God as one with his avowed enemy, into whose presence he will not come, Gen. 3:8. The people of God have sometimes had a touch of this, 2 Sam. 6:9, “And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and said, How shall the ark of the Lord come unto me? Though it never prevails with them to extinguish love, yet sometimes a believer is like a faulty child, who, instead of humbling himself before his parents, hides himself in some corner, and is so frighted, that he dare not come in, and look the parent in the face; but this is a most dangerous case, especially if it lasts long.—In a word, it makes them run to physicians of no value. For what is more natural than that men who are frightened from God under apprehended danger, run to some other quarter, and that to their own ruin, Rev. 6:16, “And said to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.”
2. What is to be thought of this slavish fear of God? To this I answer, there is something good in it, and something evil.
(1.) There is something good in it, namely, the fear of God’s wrath for sin, which lies unpardoned on the guilty sinner or which the sinner may be inclined to commit: Jam. 2:19, “Thou belie vest that there is one God, thou dost well.” To cast off fear of the wrath of God, and the terrible punishments which he has annexed to sin; is a pitch of wickedness which but the very worst of men arrive at. The fear of God’s wrath against sin, and that duly influential too, is recommended to us by Christ himself, Luke 12:5, “Fear him,” says he, “which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell, yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” It is also recommended by the example of the very best of saints, Job 31:23, “For destruction from God was a terror unto me;” and says David, “My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments,” Psalm 119:120. And the law of God is not fenced with terrors to be disregarded, but to awe men’s spirits. But,
(2.) There is something evil in it, yea, much evil in it, if we consider,—The scrimpness and narrowness of its spring. Why should the fear of God be confined to spring up from his wrath against sin only or chiefly, since there are so many other perfections of God, which may give rise-to the fear of him, which are disregarded by this means? It casts a vail of disrespect on his holiness, goodness, and hatred of sin, on his relations of Creator, Preserver, Father, Supreme Lord, and Governor of the world.—The horrible effects and tendency thereof, as it rises only from this spring, and overflows all the banks of godly fear. Fear of God, even of his wrath, is good, but the excess of it is very bad. Fire and water are both good and necessary, but very bad when the one burns man, and the other drowns him. Hence, since what is acceptable in the sight of God is perfect in parts, though not in degrees, is good in the manner as well as matter, this fear is not what he takes pleasure in, nay, it is displeasing to him, and is the sin of those who hear the gospel, whose fear ought to be extended according to the revelation made to them. And thus one may be displeasing to himself, to those about him, and to God also; and if they attain to no other fear of God, what they fear will probably come upon them. Nevertheless, this fear, kept within bounds, may, by the Spirit, be made the means to bring the sinner to the Lord in his covenant. For the fear of God’s wrath is a good thing in itself, Rom. 8:15; it serves to rouse the sinner out of his security, to make him sensible of his danger, and to seek for relief: Psalm 9:20,” Put them in fear, O Lord, that the nations may know themselves to be but men.” And therefore the law and its threatening, as a red flag, are displayed in the sight of secure sinners, that they may be roused to flee from the wrath to come.
To this there may be offered this objection, The fear of the Lord’s wrath can make but an unsound closing with the Lord in his covenant. Answ. That is very true, if there be nothing more. But fear of God’s wrath not only may, but ordinarily, if not always does, begin the work which love crowns. Fear brings men to the gates of the city of refuge, and when they are there, love is kindled, and makes them press forward. Fear brings the poor captive woman to confer with the conqueror about the match; but thereby love is kindled, and faith makes the match. It works, however, very differently at other times; for Satan and oar corrupt hearts are ready to drive forward this fear of God’s wrath to exceed all bounds; and no wonder, for when it has got over the boundaries, it makes fearful havoc in the soul’s case, like a consuming fire, deadening all good motions towards God, and quickening evil ones, to the dishonour of God, and one’s own torment; and no case out of hell is liker hell than this, both in respect of sin and misery. But when the Spirit of God has a saving work in view, he can easily make the spirit of bondage subservient to the spirit of adoption.
3. How should one manage in the case of a slavish fear of God’s wrath? Here I answer, We had need to be Well guided, for the losing or winning of the soul depends upon it. For your assistance I offer the following directions:—
(1.) Labour to clear the grounds of your fear of God’s wrath, by a rational inquiry and discovery. There are, even of these fears, some that do really proceed from a bodily distemper vitiating the Imagination, namely, from melancholy, and the like; and in this case, your trouble rises and falls according to the disposition of your bodies, but not according to the comfort or terror you receive from God’s word, as it is in truly spiritual troubles. Thus it often comes on, and goes off, they know not how; shewing the first wound to be in their head, not in their conscience. Of this sort was the evil spirit Saul was troubled with, under which he got ease by music, not by his Bible. In this case, as well as others, it would be of use to consider the real grounds of fear from the Lord’s word, and the consideration of one’s own state or case, and so to turn it as much as may be into solid fears upon plain and evident reasons for it. This would be a step to the salvation of the soul. But, alas! it is sad to think of tormenting fear kept up on we know not what grounds, and which can produce no good; while in the meantime people will not be at pains to enquire into the real evidences of their soul’s hazard, the sinfulness of their state, heart, and life. Ask, then, yourselves, what real ground there is from the Lord’s word for this fear of yours.
(2.) Beware of casting off the fear, dread, and awe of the wrath of God against sin: Job 15:4, “Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God.” This is the issue of some people’s fears, who, one way or other, get their necks from under the yoke, and grow more stupid, fearless, and profane, than even by the just judgment of God. It is true, that fear is not enough; but there is something to be added, and yet not this fear cast away. If thou be brought into a state of sonship to God, the dread of God’s wrath against sin will come along with you, though it will be no more slavish; as if a slave were made his master’s son by adoption, he would still fear his anger, though not slavishly as before. But be one’s state what it will, better be God’s slave, fearing his wrath only, than the devil’s freeman, casting off the fear of God altogether. There is less ill in the former than in the latter. Yea,
(3.) Cast not off the fear of that wrath, even its overtaking you, till such time as thy soul be brought away freely to Jesus Christ: Hos. 5:8, “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence; in their affliction they will seek me early.” Thou hast no warrant to cast it off sooner, for certainly wrath is pursuing thee, till thou be within the gates of the city of refuge; and to be without fear of that wrath that is still advancing on a person, is ruining. Indeed, as soon as thou hast sincerely come to Christ in his covenant, though the fear of wrath against sin is never to be laid by, yet then thou mayest and oughtest to cast off the fear of vindictive wrath overtaking thee: “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus,” Rom. 8:1.
(4.) Look not always on an absolute God, for surely that can produce no fear of God but a slavish one; but look on God in Christ as the trysting-place himself has set, for receiving the addresses of the guilty on a throne of grace: 2 Cor. 5:19, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” This is the way to repress and curb the horrible effects of slavish fear, to make love to God, faith, and hope, spring up in the soul, and so mould that fear of thine into filial fear and reverence. In a God out of Christ thou canst discern nothing but inflexible justice, and the utmost terror; and from his throne of unvailed majesty, hear nothing but terrible voices, thunders, and earthquakes. But in a God in Christ thou mayest behold bowels of mercy, and flowing compassions; and from the throne of grace hear the still small voice of mercy and peace, Isa. 35:3, 4.
(5.) At what time soever you find the fear of God’s wrath begin to choke the love of God in your hearts, or to drive you away from him in any way, check and curb that fear resolutely, let it not proceed, though you were in the time under the most atrocious sin: Psalm 65:3, “Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou wilt purge them away.” For then you are in the march between God’s ground and the devil’s; and there is a wind from hell, blowing up the fire of fear, that will consume you, if it be not quenched; for the separation of the soul from God, and its going away from him, can in no case fail to be of a raining nature: and the more that it increases with a person, his heart will be the more hardened, and he will be set the farther off from repentance.
(6.) Greedily embrace any gleam of hope from the Lord’s own word, and hang by it. Ye should do like Benhadad’s servants, and say, We have heard that the king of Israel is a merciful king, and we hope he will save us, 1 Kings 20:31. The apostle calls hope the Christian’s head-piece, 1 Thess. 5:8, not to be thrown away in a time of danger.
Lastly, Come away resolutely to the Lord Jesus, lay hold on him in the gospel-offer, and consent to the covenant: Heb. 7:25, “He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him.” Lay hold on the horns of this our altar, and you shall not die; he will swallow up death in victory, Isa. 25:8. Flee into this city of refuge; the avenger shall not overtake thee. Do as the lepers of Samaria did, reasoned with themselves, and went to the camp, where meat was to be found. Thou art like to sink in a sea of wrath, Jesus holds out his hand to draw thee ashore. Thou art afraid, perhaps, it is not to thee, it is vain to try; but know that it is the hand that must take thee out, or thou art a gone man; neglecting to take hold, thou art ruined; otherwise, thou canst be but ruined.
Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: Sixty-Six Sermons, ed. Samuel M‘Millan, vol. 9 (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1851), 77–82.
And finally a series of quotations from Thomas Watson on the fear of God:
Fear of God is a leading grace: it is the first seed God sows in the heart. When a Christian can say little of faith, and perhaps nothing of assurance, yet he dares not deny, but he fears God. God is so great that he is afraid of displeasing him, and so good that he is afraid of losing him. “Fear thou God.”
The fear of the Christian is not servile, but filial. There is a great difference between fearing God, and being afraid of God. The godly fear God, as a dutiful and loving son fears his father; but the wicked are afraid of him, as a prisoner is of his judge.
Fear and love are best in conjunction. Love is the sails to speed the soul’s motion; and fear is the ballast to keep it steady in religion.
The fear of God is mingled with faith—“By faith Noah moved with fear.” Faith keepeth the heart cheerful: fear keepeth the heart serene. Faith keepeth the heart from despair; fear keepeth it from presumption.
The fear of God is mingled with prudence. He who fears God hath the serpent’s eye in the dove’s head: he foresees and avoids the rocks which others are lost upon. Although Divine fear doth not make a Christian cowardly, it makes him cautious. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself.”
The fear of God is a Christian’s safety; nothing can in reality hurt him. Plunder him of his money, he carries about him a treasure of which he cannot be despoiled. “The fear of the Lord is his treasure.” Cast him into bonds, yet he is free; kill his body, he shall rise again. He who hath on the breastplate of God’s fear, may be shot at, but cannot be shot through.
The fear of God is mingled with hope. “The eyes of the Lord are upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy.” Fear is to hope, as oil is to the lamp: it keeps it burning. The more we fear God’s justice, the more we may hope in his mercy.
Faith stands sentinel in the soul, and is ever on the watch-tower; fear causeth circumspection. He who walks in fear, treads warily. Faith induces prayer, and prayer engageth the help of Heaven.
The fear of God is a great purifier—“The fear of the Lord is clean.” In its own nature it is pure; in its operation it is effective. The heart is the “temple of God;” and holy fear sweeps and purifies this temple, that it be not defiled.
The fear of God promotes spiritual joy; it is the morning star which ushers in the sunlight of comfort. Walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, God mingles joy with fear, that fear may not be slavish.
The fear of God is an antidote against apostacy—“I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me:”—I will so love them that I will not depart from them, and they shall so fear me that they will not depart from me.
The fear of God induces obedience. Luther said, “I would rather obey God than work miracles.” A heathen, exercising much cruelty to a Christian, asked him, in scorn, what great miracle his Master, Jesus Christ, ever did. The Christian replied, “This miracle—that, although you use me thus, I can forgive you.”
The fear of God makes a little to be sweet:—“Better is a little with the fear of the Lord.” It is because that little is sweetened with God’s love,—that little is a pledge of more:—that little oil in the cruse is but an earnest of that joy and bliss which the soul shall have in heaven. The crumbs which fell to the lot of Lazarus were sweeter than the banquet was to the rich man. The handful of meal, with God’s benediction, is better than all unsanctified riches.
Sincere love and holy fear go hand in hand; fear springs from love lest God’s favour should be lost by sin.
Thomas Watson, Puritan Gems; Or, Wise and Holy Sayings of the Rev. Thomas Watson, A.M., ed. John Adey, Second Thousand. (London: J. Snow, and Ward and Co.; Nisbet and Co.; E. F. Gooch, 1850), 51–55.