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his life was preserved, Gen. xxxii. 30. 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 terrible even the presence of angels has been unto men, and that when they have brought them good tidings from heaven, Judges xiii. 22; Matt. xxviii. 5; Mark xvi. 5, 6.
Now, if angels, which are but creatures, are, through the glory that God has put upon them, so fearful and terrible in their appearance to men, how much more dreadful and terrible must God himself be to us, who are but dust and ashes! When Daniel had the vision of his salvation sent him from heaven, O Daniel, said the messenger, man greatly beloved;" yet behold the dread and terror of the person speaking fell with that weight upon this good man's soul, that he could not stand, nor bear up under it. He stood trembling, and cried out, "O my lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength. For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? for as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me," Dan. x. 16, 17.
See you here, if the presence of God is not a dreadful and a fearful thing, yea, his most gracious and merciful appearances; how much more then when he showeth himself to us as one that disliketh our ways, as one that is offended with us for our sins!
And there are three things that in an eminent manner make his presence dreadful to us.
(1.) 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
The man dies to whom he thus discovers himself. “And when I saw him," says John, I fell at his feet as dead,” Rev. i. 17. It was this, therefore, that Job would have avoided in the day that he would have approached unto him. not thy dread," says he, "make me afraid. Then call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and answer thou me," Job xiii. 21, 22. But why doth Job, after this manner, thus speak to God? why, it was from a sense that he had of the dreadful majesty of God, even the great and dreadful God that keepeth covenant with his people.
The presence of a king is dreadful to the subject, yea, though he carries it ever so condescendingly; if then there be so much glory and dread in the presence of a king, what fear and dread must there be, think you, in the presence of the eternal God!
(2.) When God giveth his presence to his people, that presence causeth them to appear to themselves more what they are, than at other times, by all other light they can see. "O my lord," said Daniel, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me;" and why was that, but because by the glory of that vision, he saw his own vileness more than at other times? So again; "I was left alone, and saw this great vision ;" and what follows? and there re
mained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength," Dan. x. 8. 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.
See also the truth of this in the vision of the prophet Isaiah. "Woe is me!" said he, " for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips." Why, what is the matter? how came the prophet by this sight? he adds, "For mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts," Isa. vi. 5. But do you think that this outcry was caused by unbelief? no, nor yet begotten by slavish fear, this was to him the vision of his Saviour with whom also he had communion before. It was the glory of that God with whom he had now to do, that turned, as was noted before of Daniel, his comeliness in him into corruption, and that gave him yet greater sense of the disproportion that was betwixt his God and him, and so a greater sight of his defiled and polluted nature.
(3.) Add to this the revelation of God's goodness, and it must needs make his presence dreadful to us; for when a poor, defiled creature shall see, that this great God hath, notwithstanding his greatness, goodness in his heart, and mercy to bestow upon him this makes his presence yet the more dreadful. They "shall fear the Lord and his goodness," Hos. iii. 5. The goodness as well as the greatness of God doth beget in the heart of his elect an awful reverence of his majesty. "Fear ye not me? saith the Lord will ye not tremble at my presence?" and then to engage us in our soul to the duty, he adds one of his wonderful mercies to the world for a motive. Fear ye not me? why, who art thou? He answers, "which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it," Jer. v. 22.
Also, when Job had God present with him, making manifest the goodness of his heart to him, what doth he say? how doth he behave himself in his presence? I have heard of thee," says he, "by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes," Job xlii. 5, 6.
And what mean the tremblings, the tears, the breakings and shakings of heart that attend the people of God, when in an eminent manner they receive the pronunciation of the forgiveness of sins at his mouth, but that the dread of the majesty of God is in their sight mixed therewith? God must appear like himself, speak to the soul like himself, nor can the sinner when under these glorious discoveries of its Lord and Saviour, keep out the beams of his majesty from the eyes of its understanding. "I will cleanse them," saith he, "from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me." And what then? "And they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it," Jer. xxxiii. 8, 9.
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 fools than those that feel the presence of God. They would not carry it so in the presence of a king, nor yet of the lord of their land, were they but receivers of mercy at his hand: they carry it even in their most eminent seasons, as if the sense and sight of God, and his blessed grace to their souls in Christ, had a tendency in them to make men wanton: but,
indeed, it is the most humbling and heart breaking sight in the world; it is fearful.
Objection. But would you not have us rejoice at 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. ii. 11. For then you have solid and godly joy; a joyful heart, and wet eyes, in this will stand very well together, and it will be so more or less. For if God shall come to you, indeed, and visit you with the forgiveness of sins, that visit removeth the guilt, but increaseth the sense of thy filth; and the sense of this, that God hath forgiven a filthy sinner, will make thee both rejoice and tremble. Oh the blessed confusion that will then cover thy face whilst thou, even thou, so vile a wretch shalt stand before God to receive at his hand thy pardon, and so the first fruits of thy eternal salvation! "That thou
mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God," Ezek. xvi. 63.
2. But as the presence, so the name of God is dreadful and fearful; wherefore his name doth rightly go under the same title, "That thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD," Deut. xxviii. 58.
The name of God, what is that, but that by which he is distinguished and known from all others? Names are to distinguish; so man is distinguished from beasts, and angels from men; so heaven from earth, and darkness from light; especially when by the name, the nature of the thing is signified and expressed; and so it was originally,