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ciled with such a passage as that which follows-" perfect love casteth out fear?" If all the true servants of God are to fear him, how is it that "perfect love," the perfect love of God, "casteth out fear?" Now, instead of at once replying to this question, I, perhaps, shall be forgiven, if I venture to offer a few plain observations upon the four following points:
1. In the first place, there is, I conceive, a wrong fear in religion. 11. There is a fear which is right. III. In the first stages of religion, fear is apt to prevail over love.
IV. In the last stages of religion, love gradually banishes fear.
In the first place, there is a fear; in religion which is wrong; and of this I will mention two cases.
That fear is wrong which proceeds from false views of God.There are minds which delight to draw the most tremendous pictures of the Almighty. They take, for instance, some earthly potentate, the severity of whose justice is softened by no touches of mercy; and, adding to the portrait the qualities of infinite power and purity, they call this their God. I do not mean to say that such a state of mind is common; for excessive fear of God is by no means common, and, where it exists, often arises from other causes. Still such cases are to be found; and persons are still more commonly to be found, who, with out going all the lengths of those to whom I have referred, yet form such notions of God, as are inconsistent with the love of God, and the hope of salvation. They contemplate God as armed for vengeance, not as clothed with love; as thundering from the throne of judgment, not as smiling on the seat of mercy, They remember that "in Adam all die," but forget that "in Christ all shall be made alive." Now, can we hesitate to say that such views of the character of God as are calculated to give us low notions of his mercy, and to fill us with slavish fear, are wrong?
"God is love;" every work of his, hand, every act of his Providence, the face of nature, the history of our lives, all constitute, as it were, one vast volume, which proclaims, the love and the compassion of God Almighty. The Bible may be said, to be one continued commentary upon the single text, "God is love." True religion, therefore, evidently casts out all such fear as this. True religion, I may say, "detests" such fear; holds no alliance with it, because it dishonours Him who is the great object of religion it puts an idol in the place of God. Far, far, therefore, be such fear from all your readers, and from all who serve the God of Israel, the God of mercy, the "God who so loved the world, as to give his own Son to die for it."
Again; that fear is wrong which proceeds from wrong views of our own character.-There are persons who, with right views of God, have false views of themselves; who either mistake the requisitions of the Gospel, and then tremble because they do not comply with its demands; or who, though having just views of the Gospel, form a wrong estimate of their own faith and obedience to its doctrines. One individual, for instance, despairs because he has sinned after receiving the sacrament; another, because he imagines that he has committed the sin against the Holy Ghost; a third, because he thinks that he has not the witness of the Spirit in himself, which witness be imagines to be some direct com. munication from Heaven; another, because sin is not altogether subdued in him; another, because he is unable to discover, in his own works, sufficient to justify him in the sight of God. Now it certainly is very far from my intention to encourage myself, or your readers, to hope upon false grounds; to veil that sword of vengeance which is really lifted against the impenitent; to increase our courage by concealing our enemies. On the
contrary, it will be my endeavour hereafter to shew, that fear-strong, active, lively fear-is essential to the Christian character. But those of whom I am now speaking are not either the careless or the conceited. They are, some of them, men whose very humility, perhaps, is shutting their eyes upon the hopes and happiness of the Christian. They are, some of them, men who bow so very low before the throne of God, as not to see the sceptre of mercy which is stretched out to them. They are men whose eyes are so occupied and absorbed by the sword of wrath, which hangs over the path of the sinner, as not to see the sheath which mercy carries beside it for the true penitent. Is there any one of those who is honouring this paper with his attention, wretched because he is not sinless? Then let him remember, that Christ" came to seek and to save that which was lost." Or is he wretched because he has not some inward revelation of his awn safety? Let him remember, that the witness of the Spirit is the "fruit" which the Spirit of God produces in our lives and tempers. Or does he despair because his own works, though holy, are not sufficiently holy to justify him? Then let him call to mind, that we are "justified, not by works of righteousness which we have done," but that "according to His mercy He saves us;" and that salvation is "the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord." In this case then, I venture to repeat the declaration-"Love casteth out fear," where "fear" is founded on false views of ourselves-where we expect in ourselves, that which God expects not where we are turning our eyes from the Rock of our refuge when we are miserable though God permits and invites us to be humble and happy.
But I now turn to the second point which I proposed to notice, viz. that there is a fear in religion which is right; and perhaps I can
not more conveniently treat this position than under the arrange ment already adopted. In the first place, then, that fear is right which proceeds from right views of the character of God. God is described in the Bible as an infinitely pure and holy Being. The angels are said not to be pure in his sight. Indeed, these heavenly hosts appear to have their other feelings absorbed in the contemplation of the holiness of God. "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts." Now he that is holy must hate sin; and accordingly of God it is said, that he hates it with a "perfect hatred,” with a hatred, that is, unmitigated,' as in man, by the touches of inward depravity. He hates it as perfect light abhors perfect darkness.-But that which God hates and punishes, man must evidently fear. We must fear, therefore, the commission of sin. We must fear the consequences of sin. All that is sinful must fill us with horror. We must shrink from it as from the touch of pollution-as from the dagger of death-as from that which if unrepented of, if unwashed by the blood of Christ, is to sepa rate us from God, and to give us to the "worm that never dies." But, it may be asked, is not this to contradict what has been said before? I answer, No. What has been affirmed amounts to this-Before we have sinned, we must fear sin, because God is holy: when unhappily we have sinned, we must not despair, because God is merci. ful.
Again; that fear may be said to be right which proceeds from right views of ourselves.-If man were as upright as he originally proceed ed from the hands of his Maker, even then, the example of Adam may teach us, that we have sufficient cause for the fears suggested by the weakness of our nature and the strength of our temptations. And I need not say how greatly the causes of fear are increased by that corruption which the sin of our first
parents has entailed upon us. But upon this point I will not dwell. If any of your readers doubt the necessity of caution and apprehension, let him look into the state either of the world, or of his own heart, to be convinced. Who, for instance, can look into himself, and not discover his weakness and corruption? Who has not, at times felt himself break down at what appeared to be his strongest point? Who has not, in some particular instance, felt the most despicable temp tation overcome him? Who has not passed, with the most painful rapidity, from a state of communion with God and delight in religion, to that of coldness, and worldliness, and guilt? In like manner, let any person who doubts upon this point look at the histories of Noah, of Lot, of Abraham, and of David; and then say whether it does not become us to "pass the time of our sojourning here in fear." May I then be permitted to express my hope, and to offer my humble supplication to God, that all your readers may be distinguished by a holy distrust of themselves-by a deep sense of weakness-by a conviction that their safety is to be secured, not by "might nor by power," but by the Spirit" of "the Lord." Let us remember, that when in Scripture we are encou raged to be strong, it is to "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might;" that when we are stirred up to "work out our salvation," it is by the consideration, that "God worketh in us both to will and to do;" that when the author of the Hebrews collects from their graves, and causes to pass in review before us the mighty dead who have fought and conquered in the spiritual conquest, he attributes their victory, not to their strength, but to their "faith:"-" by faith they subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, quenched the violence of the sword." Their
triumph was achieved, on the one hand, by a distrust in themselves, and on the other by a spirit of confidence in the Almighty. Their song of gratitude was, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name be the praise."
III. But without more delay, I shall now notice the third proposi tion, which I stated in the opening of this paper, viz. that in the first stages of religion, fear is naturally apt to prevail over love.-When the eyes of a sinner first open upon the truths of religion, an awful prospect appears to lie before him. He discovers, that he has long been sinning against a holy and just God→→→ that he has been "dead in trespasses and sins"--that he has stood on the very edge of perdition. He looks behind him, and shudders to behold the mere plank, as it were, by which he has crossed the gulf. He looks before him, and sees chasm within chasm, which must be passed, rock upon rock which must be climbed. He looks around him, and searches in vain for many companions of his march, who he has reason to fear have fallen, and perished for ever. He looks within, and finds nothing which corre sponds to the size and complexion of his dangers. Unaccustomed as yet to cast himself upon God, to prove the abundance of the mercy of God, and the power of his arm, his heart sinks within him. The terrors of the Lord seem to be let loose upon him, and nc deliverer appears. The awful picture given in Job, seems almost to describe his own circumstances :--" In thoughts from the vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake: then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up." I am well aware, indeed, that the awe which thus seizes upon the mind is not the same in all cases; that it will be proportioned, in some degree, to the
greatness of our sins-to the strength of our imagination-and to the fulness with which we are led to contemplate the vengeance of God. Nor do I by any means deem it right for the preacher of the Gospel to busy himself in exciting those intense and tumultuous feelings which are, perhaps, as much calculated to disorder the mind as to reform it: but still I know, that feelings analogous to these are often awakened-and awakened, I be lieve, not by the language of enthusiasm, but by the language of Scrip ture-by just views of the cousequences of sin-and I may add, by the merciful movements of that Spirit, who prefers that his ser vants should "suffer" for a time here, in order to their "reigning" for ever in heaven. Now, then, in this stage of religion, when the sinner is familiar only with a part of its system, when he has not overcome the shock of discovering his own guilt and danger, is it wonderful that for a season fear should prevail over love-that he should overrate his difficulties-that he should darken the avenue by which hope enters that he should perceive little but clouds and shadows hanging over the path of his pilgrimage? And need any of your readers who are in such a state of mind be urged to hasten their escape from it; not by shutting their eyes upon their dangers, not by taking the awful leap, as it were, in the dark-but to escape from it by a farther advance in religion.
And this was the fourth point to which I proposed to call the attention of your readers, viz. that, in the last stages of religion, "love begins to prevail over fear."-At first, as has been said, the man who discovers his guilt is naturally more occupied by his dangers than by any hopes of deliverance from them. He naturally surveys the depth and darkness of his dungeon, before he discovers the ray by which it is lighted. He disco
vers the disease before he recognizes the Physician. But, when such a person continues to pray to God, to study his Bible, to use diligently and devoutly the means of grace which a good God has provided for him, comfort by degrees breaks in upon him—“ light springeth up in the darkness." He gradually, by the Divine mercy, discovers how precisely the religion of Jesus Christ is suited to his state-how tenderly it treatsthe penitent sinner-how ample a remedy it provides for his casehow it strives to bind up the bruised reed. He discovers, also, the infinite tenderness of the Divine Character. From the cleft of the rock, as it were, he sees the skirts of the Divine Glory pass by him-and hears the title and attributes of God proclaimed-" the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth." Especially, he beholds God as the God of the Gospel
-as the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ"-as the God who "spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all." Can be fail, then, under the Divine blessing, to love a God such as this? Will not the fears springing from his views either of the character of God or of his own defects insensibly lessen? Will he not, feel an increasing confidence, that so merciful, a God will not abandon so infirm and helpless a creature? Is not every weaker feeling likely to be absorbed by the growing sense of the Divine goodness? Is not the love of God, of his Saviour, likely by degrees, to become his master passion, his ruling principle? If I may be allowed to borrow an illustration from those two persons, who seem to have been the appointed heralds of the dispensations of fear and love, I should say, that the words of St. John, with reference to himself and to his Master, apply to the case I am describing-to the decay of fear and
growth of love-"He must increase, but I must decrease." The stars must fade as the sun arises; and twilight vanish in the blaze of day.
And now, by way of bringing this, I fear too much extended, discussion to an end, I will simply say, that I must not be considered as stating, that the love of the Christian is ever so complete in this state of being as entirely to banish fear-that his perception, either of the goodness of God or of his own growth in grace, may ever entitle him here to cast away a feeling so salutary and so suited to a fallen creature. The perfect love which casteth out fear probably res fers to heaven; that perfect state to which the true servant of God is daily and rapidly advancing to that day of which he now sees but the dawn-to that hour when he shall no longer see through a glass darkly, but see even as he is seen, and know as he is known, and love as he is loved. Then indeed,
its enemies, or by exposure in an atmosphere unfavourable to it?
Do we desire to reach heaven, and taste of that perfect love which casteth out fear? Then may we all remember, that we are not to be transported thither in a chariot of fire, but are to rise to it by the patient and laborious steps of penitence, and faith, and obedi. ence, and self-denial, and watchfulness and prayer-are to rise to it from the lowly foot of a Saviour's cross. O, then, may one and all of us, in order to this end, under Divine grace, adopt the resolution and practice of St. Paul: "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be'a cast away."
shall love, in the strongest sense, FAMILY SERMONS. No. LXXVI, cast out fear. Then shall fear ut
terly cease, when danger is entirely removed, and corruption completely annihilated. Then shall we be "like God, for we shall see him as he is."
And now let me be allowed to say, especially to the inexperienced in religion, to whom alone, indeed, I have the smallest pretensions to speak; Let them look at this pic ture of religion:-it does not present to them, as some have imagined, a system of terrors, but a dispensation of love. It shews them, if I may so describe it, a chain of gold by which the joys of angels are let down to man. Who, then, will not value religion? Who will trample upon this pearl of great price? Who will not sell all he has, that he may buy this? Who will put such a possession to hazard-stake it upon a remote chance of long life upon the uncertain penitence of a sick and dying bed? Who will risk it in a rash intercourse with
Gen. vi. 8. "And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man."
IN "the days that were before the flood," it is said, "they were eating and drinking, and knew not till the flood came and took them all away." So completely were they absorbed, either by the pleasures or business of life, that when the floodgates of wrath were opened, only one family had prepared to encounter the overwhelming tide. But had God, without warning, at once devoted his creatures to destruction? Had the floodgates of wrath been opened without preparation? Had the Father of the universe at once emptied the vials of indignation upon his creatures? An examination of the text will enable us to reply to these and some other important questions. And to this end, it will be my endeavour to offer some observations in proof of the four following positions.