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THE PRIVILEGES OF THOSE THAT FEAR THE LORD.
Having thus briefly handled, in particular, thus far this fear of God, I shall now show you certain of the excellent privileges of those that fear the Lord: not that they are not privileges that have been already mentioned; for what greater privilege than to have this fear producing in the soul such excellent things, so necessary for us for good, both with reference to this world and that which is to come; but because those fourteen effects set forth in the preceding chapter, do rather flow from this grace of fear where it is, than from a promise to the person that hath it, therefore I have chosen rather to discourse of them as the fruits and effects of fear than otherwise. Now, besides all these, there are entailed by promise to the man that hath this fear, many other blessed privileges, the which I shall now, in a brief way, lay open unto you.
1. First, then, that man that feareth the Lord has a grant and a licence to trust in the Lord, with an affirmation that the Lord is his help and his shield. "Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield," Psa. cxv. 11. Now, what a privilege is this! An exhortation in general to sinners, as sinners, to trust in him, is a privilege great and glorious; but for a man to be singled out from his neighbours, for a man to be spoken to from heaven, as it were by name, and to be told that God hath given him a licence, a special and peculiar grant to trust in him, this is abundantly more, and yet this is the grant that God hath given that man. He hath, I say, a licence to do it, a licence indited by the Holy Ghost, and left upon record for those to be born that shall fear the Lord to trust in him. And not only so, but as the text affirms, he is their help and their shield. Their help under all their weaknesses and infirmities, and a shield to defend them against all the assaults of the devil and this world. So then, the man that feareth the Lord is licensed to make the Lord his stay, and the God of his salvation the succour and deliverer of his soul, He will defend him because his fear is in his heart. O ye servants of the Lord, ye that fear him, live in the comfort of this, boldly make use of it when you are in straits, and put your trust under the shadow of his wings, for indeed he would have you do so, because you do fear the Lord.
2. God hath also proclaimed concerning the man that feareth the Lord, that he will also be his teacher and guide in the way that he shall choose; and hath moreover promised concerning such, that their soul shall dwell at ease. "What man is he that feareth the Lord?" said David, " him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose," Psa. xxv. 12.
Now, to be taught of God, what is like it? yea, what like to being taught in the way that thou shalt choose? Thou hast chosen the way to life, God's way, but perhaps thy ignorance about it is so great, and those that tempt thee to turn aside so many, and so subtle, that they seem to outwit thee, and confound thee with their guile. Well, but the Lord whom thou fcarest will not leave thee to thy ignorance, nor yet to thine enemies power or subtlety, but will take it upon himself to be thy teacher and thy guide, and that in the way that thou hast chosen. Hear then, and behold thy privilege, O thou that fearest the Lord; and whoever wanders, or turns aside, or swerve from the way of salvation, whoever is benighted and lost in the midst of darkness, thou shalt find the way to the heaven and the glory that thou hast chosen.
Further; He doth not only say that he will teach those the way, for that must of necessity be supplied, but he says also that he will teach such in it; "Him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose." This argueth that, as thou shalt know, so the way shall be made, by the communion that thou shalt have with God therein, sweet and pleasant to thee. For this text promiseth unto the man that feareth the Lord, the presence, company, and discovery of the mind of God, while he is going in the way that he hath chosen. It is said of the good scribe, that he is instructed unto, as well as into the way of the kingdom of God, Matt. xiii. 52. "Instructed unto." that is, he hath the heart and mind of God still discovered to him in the way that he hath chosen, even all the way from this world to that which is to come, even until he shall come to the very gate and door of heaven. What the disciples said was the effect of the presence of Christ, namely, that their hearts did burn within them while he talked to them by the way, Luke xxiv. 32, shall be also fulfilled in thee; he will meet with thee in the way, talk with thee in the way, he will teach thee in the way that thou shalt choose.
3. Dost thou fear the Lord? he will open his secret unto thee, even that which he hath hid, and kept close from all the world; namely, the secret of his covenant, and of thy concern therein. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant," Psa. xxv. 14. This then further confirms what was said before; his secret shall be with them, and his covenant shall be shown unto them.
His secret, namely, that which hath been kept hid from ages and generations, that which he manifesteth only to the saints, or holy ones; that is, his Christ, for he it is that is hid in God, and that no man can know but he to whom the Father shall reveal him.
But, oh! what is there wrapped up in this Christ, this secret of God! why, all the treasures of life, of heaven, and happiness. "In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," Col. ii. 3; yea, "in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," ver. 9.
He also is that hidden One, who is so full of grace to save sinners, and so full of truth and faithfulness to keep promise and covenant with them, that their eyes must needs convey, even by every glance they make upon his person, offices, and relation, such affecting ravishments to the heart, that it would please those that see him, even to be killed with that sight.
This secret of the Lord shall be; nay, is with those that fear him, for he dwelleth in their heart by faith. "And he will show them his covenant;" that is, the covenant that is confirmed of God in Christ, that everlasting and eternal covenant; and show him too, that he himself is wrapped up therein as in a bundle of life with the Lord his God. These are the thoughts, purposes, and promises of God to those that fear him.
4. Dost thou fear the Lord? His eye is always over thee for good, to keep thee from all evil. "Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine," Psa. xxxiii. 18, 19.
His eye is upon them, that is, to watch over them for good. "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep," Psa. cxxi. 4. His eyes are upon them, and he will keep them as a shepherd doth his sheep; that is, from those wolves that seek to devour them, and to swallow them up in death. His eyes are upon them, for they are the objects of his delight, the rarities of the world, in whom is all his delight. His eye is upon them, as I said before, to teach and instruct them; "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye," Psa. xxxii. 8. The eye of the Lord, therefore, is upon them; not to take advantage of them, to destroy them for their sins, but to guide, to help and deliver them from death, from that death that would feed upon their souls. "To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine," Psa. xxx. 19. Take death here for death spiritual and death eternal, and the famine here, not for that which is for want of bread and water, but for that which comes on many for want of the word of the Lord, and then the sense is this:—The man that feareth the Lord, shall neither die spiritually nor eternally, for God will keep him with his eye from all those things that would in such a manner kill him. Again; should there be a famine of the word, should there want both the word and those that preach it in the place where thou dost dwell, yet bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure; thou shalt not die of