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1. We may observe, that the awful majesty of God is in itself an object of fear and dread. He is indeed the exceeding great joy of his people, and their supreme delight; yet when they consider his infinite understanding and unbounded power, in connection with inflexible justice and righteousness, as of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and who will by no means clear the guilty, he is also the object of their fear and dread. Moses loved the Lord God of Israel, and was indulged with such intimate communion that he spake with him face to face; yet when at Sinai he saw the lightnings flash, heard the thunders roar, and perceived the mountain tremble under the weight of a descending God, "so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake." And when Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, his train filling the temple, and the seraphims crying one to another, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory,-he said, "Woe is me, for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" Habakkuk could rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of his salvation, and that even in the absence of all-created good; and yet the awful displays of divine majesty, and the threatened vengeance to his enemies, quite overwhelmed him. "When I heard (says he) my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself." Even the mercy of God is awful; for "they shall fear the Lord and his goodness:" how much more his greatness! The nearer our views of the Divine Being, the more awful and impressive will they be. Yet it becomes us not entertain a slavish fear of him, or that which hath torment; but to mix our reverence with faith and love, and to adore as well as fear. "Be not a terror unto me, O Lord." Heb. xii. 21. Isai. vi. 5. Hab. iii. 16. Hos. iii. 5.
2. Divine chastisements are also to be feared. prophet does not pray to be wholly exempt from chastisement, but that God would not deal with him so as to be a terror to him. 66 "O Lord, (says he) correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing." Thus David prayed: "O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure." Also Job: "Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me-Withdraw thine hand far from me, and let not thy dread make me afraid." In the present state, afflictions are useful and necessary; and God has declared, that if his people forsake his law, he will visit their iniquities with stripes, and their transgressions with a rod; and that whom he loveth he chasteneth, and rebuketh every son whom he receiveth. It does not therefore become us to pray absolutely against affliction: that would be to deprecate some of the special instances of love and mercy, for which we might have reason to be thankful all our days: but to desire that all our trials may be so mixed with mercy, as that God may not be `a terror to us in the day of evil, is right and proper. Many have had to say with David, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted;" and with Joseph, "The Lord hath made me fruitful in the land of mine afflic tion.' The cross is the way to the crown; but while we bear the cross, it is good to have a sight of the crown. While afflictions lie heavily upon us, we may pray to have them lightened, to have the curse removed, and the bitter ingredients mingled with love, so that all may be salutary and medicinal, purging away our corruptions, purifying our hearts, and perfecting our graces. If the Lord's hand presseth us sore, let us seek that the everlasting arms may be underneath us; that if he take the rod in one hand to correct, he may also take the staff in the other to support, We can bear the frowns of a father, but not the strokes of an enemy. We might rejoice in the deepest troubles
that can befal us on earth, under a sense of the love of God; but should be miserable even in heaven itself amidst the tokens of his displeasure. Jer. x. 24. Psal. vi. 1. Job ix. 34.
3. The wrath of God is still more dreadful, and therefore most of all to be feared. This is the greatest of all evils. This it was that overwhelmed Sodom and Gomorrah, and brought destruction upon the world of the ungodly: a fire is kindled by it that burns to the lowest hell. This is the evil that threatens sinners, and this shall be the portion of their cup. If the wrath of a king be as the roaring of a lion, what must be that of an incensed God! "Who knoweth the power of thine anger! According to thy fear, so is thy wrath." Good men may dread this wrath, though they shall never feel it. "My flesh trembleth for fear of thee," says David; "and I am afraid of thy judgments." Those who have God for their Father, when under the tokens of his displeasure, may fear him as an avenger. It is right indeed that we should fear Him who hath power to destroy both body and soul in hell; but if it keep us in bondage, and discourage us from duty, it is the fear of a slave, and not that of a son. Reverence and godly fear will lead us to serve him, and to serve him acceptably; but that which has an opposite tendency is the effect of impenitence and unbelief. The fear that God approves is mixed with hope and confidence, and this appears in our text: "Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil."
4. In deprecating wrath, the prophet in effect prays for support and comfort in the time of trial. "Will he plead against me with his great power?" says Job. No: "but he would put strength in me. ." Thereat the mercy-seat, which is sprinkled with blood and encompassed with the rainbow of the covenant"there the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge." Thus
Jeremiah might desire not only to be freed from a tormenting dread of the majesty and wrath of God, but to have free access, and enjoy delightful fellowship with him. This would be to him as the helmet of salvation in the day of evil. A lively hope in God, and communion with him, will preserve us amidst all our troubles, will. "Thou
and nothing then can hurt us, come whais stayed on
wilt keep him in perfect peace whose minthis stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee-God is ur refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." Job xxiii. 6, 7. Psal. xlvi. 1, 2. xxvi. 3.
II. Notice the confidence that is here expressed: "thou art my hope in the day of evil."
1. The grace exercised is that of hope. The prophet is "troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." He fore seeth the evil, and hideth himself; trouble is coming, but his confidence is in God, Amidst all his fears he has strong faith, and a hope that maketh not ashamed. This is the anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, entering into that within the vail. It is by this also that we are saved. It is not only an evidence of salvation, but a principal means by which it is effected; for he that hath a good hope in him will purify himself even as God is pure. Some indeed have considered it as one of the lowest graces, as inferior to faith and love: but though it be the fruit of these, yet even these can rise no higher than a well-grounded and assured hope. Persons may have faith, and yet but little hope they may be in a state of spiritual desertion and despondency: but where hope is, there will be both faith and love.-The object of hope is some
distant good, either real or supposed; for what is apprehended to be evil is not the object of hope, but of fear. It must also be a possible or attainable good; otherwise it will not excite hope, but despair. A good that is absent, or not fully enjoyed: for "hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for it?" It is the well-grounded expectation of good things to come, not visible but invisible, not present but future.-The hope of the Christian is rational and scriptural. It is produced by the Holy Spirit, strengthened by experience, and grounded on the promises. More particularly, observe,
(1.) God is the object of his people's hope: "Thou art my hope," says the prophet. There are many things which the christian hopes for, but they all centre in one object. The Holy Spirit is the author and preserver of this hope, Christ is the medium of it, as well as of every other grace, and God is the object of it. All is founded on the mediation of Christ, and all centres in the perfections, promises, and covenant of God. The soul's immediate rest is in the Redeemer : its ultimate rest is in God through him. "Thou art my hope, O Lord God: thou art my trust from my youth." And a testimony was established in Jacob, and a law in Israel, that they might set their hope in God, and not forget his works. Psal. lxxi. 5. lxxviii. 5.
(2.) God also is the end of their hope. Here it centres and terminates; it will not stop short of this, and further than this it cannot go. It is God that the christian hopes in, and God that he hopes for-some manifestations of his favour, some tokens of his love in this world, and the perfect enjoyment of him in the next. He hopes for heaven; and is it not heaven where God is? He hopes for salvation; and does not salvation consist in the fruition of God, and conformity to him?"As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with