And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake: Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.
~ Hebrews 12:21, Psalm 119:53
And the men of Bethshemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? and to whom shall he go up from us?
~ 1 Samuel 6:20
Go, enquire of the LORD for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do after all that is written in this book. Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the LORD.
~ 2 Chronicles 34:21, 2 Chronicles 34:27
For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
~ Isaiah 66:2
Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength. Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground. And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands. And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling.
~ Daniel 10:8-11
When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops.
~ Habakkuk 3:16
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.
~ Philippians 2:12, Hebrews 12:28-29
Remarkable Judgments of God, Related & Improved, by Cotton Mather. July 1697. The following is an excerpt from his work.
This is from the first sermon of the series.
My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments.
~ Psal. Cxix120.
It cannot be said of any man, as it is of the Leviathan, He made without fear; But Fear, is one of those Natural Passions which the Maker of man hath infus’d to him, to move him in the matters his Happiness. And indeed, if the Spirit man, were destitute all Fear, it would want a Sinew, needful to manage him in many of motions. But this Affection of our Fear, which we have such Apprehensions of Evils Fly from them, as ’tis useful unto us in all concerns, thus ’tis of most Eminent Use in the Concerns of Religion. Without the of some Fear, no Real Religion can be : If we would Serve the Lord, it must be with Fear: If we would keep the Commandments of God, it is our Fear of Him that will be, Custos utriusque Tabulae:
In the Sacred Oracle now before us, behold, such a Fear Exemplified! Solomon the Wise, once wrote that Maxim of Wisdom, Happy is the man that Feareth alwayes. And he had the Exemple of his Blessed Father, to Inform him of, and confirm him in, such a Maxim. David was as great an Instance of undaunted Valour and Courage, as perhaps any that ever Lived; His Fortitude was Heroical. Yet we find him Fearing Alwayes: And well might he Fear, when he had such a Formidable Object for his Fear, as that which is proposed, in the Text now before us.
The Psalmist, in our Context, is making his observations upon the Dispensations of the God Heaven towards ungodly men on earth. Ungodly men had been very High in their Worldly advancements, and Advantages, but, saith he, I see Thee Treading of them down! Ungodly men had cleaved unto the People of God, as they had been of one Metal with them, and Fate, and Lot had been one; but saith he, I see Thee putting them away like Dross! Now is a Twofold Use, which the Psalmist makes these Observations. One is, Love. Therefore I thy Testimonies Another is Fear. My Flesh for fear of Thee, and I am afraid of thy Judgments. The Degree of the Fear thus Expressed, is Remarkable. One of the Ancients who understood Hebrew, as few of them did, renders it, Horripilavit caro mea: q. d. My Hair even stands on End with Fear. And the Septuagint renders it, My Flesh is pierced with Fear, as with Nailes. But there is no need of Evaporating our Discourse, in Criticisms, on the Language of our Text; The plain Language, and the Doctrine of it, is, That a Very Trembling Fear of God in His Judgments, is what All men should, and what Good men will, have their Souls, Exceedingly Awed withal.
If you will Hear the Summ of the Matthew there is this case,
To be distinctly, with all due Brevity, spoken unto.
What is the Trembling Fear of God in His, which is to be Entertained in our And so, What are those Judgments of whereof it becomes us, with a Trembling to be Afraid?
Behold, the Steps, by which we shall arrive a full Answer of the Important Case, thus us.
I. The Fear of God, Comprehends the of that Religion, whereto the Will of God obligeth us. Indeed, in a Natural Fear, we are carried From what we Fear But a Gracious Fear will carry us To the God, who is therein Our Fear: To Fear God, is to Choose Him, to Love Him, to Trust Him, to Seek Him, and to Draw Near unto Him. In this Fear of God, there is presupposed, a Sense of God. We must be none of those Fools, who say, There is no God. Our Fear of God, must not be, as of an Imaginary Being, or of the frightful Non-Entities which the Feeble Spirits of Children are Scared withal. We are to be well satisfied, and we have all possible Demonstrations, to satisfy us, That there is a God, whose Kingdom Ruleth over all. But then,
First, There is in the Fear of God, a Reverent respect and Regard, unto all that has the Name God upon it. We must have such a Fear of in us, that our God may speak of us, in that, in Mal. 4.2. You Fear my Name. We have none but Fit, that is to say, Holy, and Resentments of all those Things, where Great God makes Himself known unto us. Titles we must mention with Honour; His we must Adore, with all Affection; Appointments we must Approach, with all. We should be Sollicitous, that God may glorifyed, not only by our selves, but also by World about us. Hallow’d be Thy Name, the First Petition of our Souls.
Secondly; There is in the Fear of God, a Studious Concern and Caution, to Avoid all that Sinful Evil by which the Law of God is Transgressed. We must have that Fear of God, whereto we are devised, in Prov. 16.6. By the Fear of the Lord men Depart from Evil. We should Fly from every known Sin, as from a deadly Serpent, or Poison, because of the Offence thereby given to that God, who hath no pleasure in Wickedness. When wee see others do any thing that is forbidden and condemned in the Edicts of God, we should be able to say, as Nehemiah of old, But so do not I, because I have the Fear of God! When others urge us to do any thing amiss, we should Reply like Joseph I dare not Commit such Things, for I Fear God And therefore, the Anger of God should be the Terror of our Souls: We should rather incur and Miseries than procure that Anger, which strongest Mountains cannot stand before; account it a fearful Thing to fall into the Hand the Living God.
Thirdly. In the Fear of God, there is a filial Care, to yield Him that Service, and Worship, which may be Pleasing unto Him. In the Fear of God we must Obey Him with our Service. The Angels of Heaven, who move the Wheels in the Changes on Earth, when they stood in their vice before the Throne of God, which had Appearance of Fire round about Him, they Let their Wings, at His Voice, in the Vision of In Allusion hereunto, the Apostle, speaking unto Believers, that are to be as the Angels, in the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, which cannot be moved, sayes, in Heb. 12.28, 29. Serve God Acceptably, with Reverence and with Godly Fear: For our God is a Consuming Fire In the Fear of God, we must Renounce the Service of all our Idols; We must no more Humour the Flesh, no more Follow the World, no more Gratify the Devil. And we must now so Devote our selves unto the Service of God, that we may be able to say, Lord, I am thy Servant, Devoted unto thy Fear! He is to be our Master; and we should leave no Room for that Expostulation, Where is my Fear? And, •n the Fear of God, we must Address Him with our Worship. The Proselytes, which came in to Embrace the True Worship of God, have this Distinction, in Psal. 115.11. Yee that Fear the •ord. In the Fear of God, we must Worship Him, who is Worthy to be Feared; and both the Natural, and the Instituted Worship of God, is to be continually performed with us, we are to be, as he once was, Devout Persons, who Fear God, and Pray alwayes unto Him.
All this is Comprised, in the Fear of God. And yet, you have no Right Notion of it, if a Christ left out of the Notion. There is a Faith implyed in this Fear. The Fear of God, is after all, be thus described, and never fully, till thus described, unto us: Tis, Even such a Dread of the Divine Displeasure at Sin, as Drives us to our Lord Jesus Christ, for Salvation from Sin, and from the Displeasure of God against us for it. There never was any true Fear of God, in the Dayes of the Old Testament, but such as thought of and ran to a Messiah, as the Deliverer from the Wrath of God; and all the Fear of God, in the Dayes of the New Testament acknowledges our Blessed Jesus as that Messiah. This is that Fear of God, which is the Beginning of Wisdom: This is that Fear of God, wherein all men should be all the Day Long. This is the Fear of God, wherein we should continue all the Dayes that we Live upon the Earth. If thou dost not Walk in this Fear of God, O Man, Let thy Flesh Tremble for Fear, and be afraid of the Judgments, whereto thou dost make thy self obnoxious. But this leads us to a further Consideration.
II. Unto the Fear of God, we are by the consideration of His Judgments to be Awakened: and we should therefore be struck with a very Trembling Fear of those Judgments. Now, the Judgments of God, are capable of a Distribution into Judicia Judicantia, and, Judicia Judicata, Judgments Denounced, and Judgments Inflicted: Judgments in the Commination, and Judgments in the Accomplishment: The Declaration of Divine Judgments, and the Execution of Divine Judgments. With an Eye to this Distribution, there are these Counsils, which from the Great God of Judgment, are to be given you.
The First Counsil.
Let us with a very Trembling Fear, be Afraid of the Judgments that are pronounced against the Ungodly, in the Book of God. There are used in our Longest and Sweetest Psalm, no less than Twelve several words, to signify the Revelation which God had made of His Purpose, to Save men, by that Son of a Virgin, who was to break the Old Serpents Head: And one of those words, is, judgments. This then is the Influence, which the Judgments of God, or the Discoveries which He has made of Himself in this Book of His, must have upon us: we should be able to say, as in Psal. 119.161. Lord, My Heart stands in Awe of thy Word. Are there any Praecepts in this Book? we should Fear the Commandment: Fear, and Cry, Lord, I am afraid of breaking thy Holy Laws, that are so Holy and Just and Good! Are there any Promises in this Book? We should Fear, Lest we fall short of them. Are there any Threatnings in this Book? We should Fear, Lest they take hold of us. Before every thing in the Book of God, we should have the same Disposition, that Josiah had, when the Book of Deuteronomy was Read unto him; (The Jews have a Tradition, that by the special Disposal of Divine Providence, the first place, which the Reader lit upon, was Deut. 28.36.) That it may be said unto us, Thy Heart was Tender, and thou didst Humble thy self before God, when thou didst Hear His Words. We should be Apprehensive of the Almighty God, speaking in every Line of this Book; and then, be Afraid, Lest all the Plagues written in this Book, overtake us, if we sin against such a God. It was the Character of our Lord Jesus Christ, in Isa. 66 2. He that is of a poor and a contrite Spirit, and who Trembleth at my Word. When we see what Judgments, the Word of God has Threatened against the Children of Disobedience, we should even fall a Trembling at them. And especially they that are conscious to a course of Disobedience against God, should be Afraid of these Judgments. When Belshazzar saw upon the Wall, an Hand-writing, which he could not Read, (because, perhaps, the Letters were so infolded one among another, that except a man had the Key of the Cyphar, the Sentence was not easy to be Uncyphared,) he was wonderfully Terrified at what he saw. Unbelievers may Read that Hand-writing in this Book, If any man Believe not the Son, the Wrath of God abideth on him: and will you not be Afraid of that Wrath? Impenitents may Read that Hand writing in this Book, The Lord will wound such an one, as goeth on still in his Trespasses: and will you not be Afraid of that wound? The Prayerless may in this Book Read that Hand-writing, The Wicked shall be Turned into Hell, and all they that Forget God: and will they Not be Afraid of that Hell; or, Fear Him, who is able to cast Body and Soul into Hell? I say unto you, Fear Him; and, Oh! be Afraid of these Judgments.
The Second Counsil.
Let us with a very Trembling Fear be Afraid of Judgments that shall be pronounced upon the Ungodly in the Day of God. It is a Truth whereof we are very sure, The God of Truth has given us Assurance of it; That He hath Appointed a Day, in which He will Judge the World in Righteousness, by our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, in the Remembrance of this Day, when the Kingdom that was promised unto the Seed of David, shall be Erected, it is said, in Eccl. 12.13, 14. Fear God, for God will bring every work into Judgment. We must expect the Approach of, a Day, wherein the Quickning and Wondrous Voice of our Lord Jesus Christ, will Raise us out of our Graves; a Day wherein a Doom of Everlasting Punishment, or of Life Eternal, will be passed upon us; a Day wherein, as the Apostle speaks, We must all Appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, that every one may receive such things in the Body, according to what he hath done: (for thus I choose to render i•.) Now, Let us Fear the Judgments, which on this Terrible Day of Judgment, our Lord Jesus Christ, will dispense unto the World. Of these Judgments it is, that a Great Minister of our Lord, could say, in 2 Cor. 5.11. Knowing the Terror of the Lord, we perswade men. There is a Terror in those Judgments; Oh!
Let this Terror now perswade us, to pursue after an Interest in Him that is to be our Judge: and Let it perswade us, to Repent of the Sins which our Judge will else Damn us to Endless Confusion for. When a Pagan Faelix, was told of the Judgments which the Notable Day of God, will produce upon mankind, it is said, He trembled. What; shall we be worse than that unhappy Pagan? When God was only publishing His Judgments, on the Burning Mountain, we are told, So terrible was the Sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly Fear and Quake. And shall not we Exceedingly Fear and Quake, when we Think on the Day, when our Lord Jesus Christ will descend from Heaven, in Flaming Fire, to pour out His Judgments, and, Behold, the Lord comes, with Myriads of His Saints, to Execute Judgment upon all! Certain I am, All this Lower World, will be surprised with an Horrible Fright, at that Great Revolution: An Horrible Tempest will then be Rain’d from Heaven upon this World: The Earth will Shake and Tremble, the foundations of the Hills also will move and be shaken, when our Lord shall Bow the Heavens, and come down, with a Devouring Fire about Him. So then, Let us now Shake and Tremble at the Contemplation thereof. Be Afraid, Lest we be found among the Ungodly, that shall not stand in the Judgment. Be Afraid, Lest our Judgment then be, that of the Devil and his Angels. ‘Tis a thing which I have given me in Charge Some Save with Fear, pulling them out of the Fire. Wherefore I say unto you, Souls, Be Afraid, Lest we be Adjudged unto the Vengeance of Eternal Fire, even, to the Fire of the Vengeance of God throughout Eternal Ages.
The Third Counsil.
There are Astonishing Judgments, dispensed by the Hand of God, upon others in this World; and with a very Trembling Fear, we should be Afraid of those Judgments. The Dispensations of God, unto a Sinful World, are such as give us that Invitation, in Psal. 66.5. Come and see the Works of God, for He is Terrible in His Doing towards the Children of men. ‘Tis our Duty now, to be Afraid of those Judgments, under which we see the Children of men suffering, by the Terrible Dispensations of God; I do not mean, that we should Live in a Slavish Fear, of all Fearful Accidents, but that we should be Awakened unto the Fear of God, by what we see. Our Duty is described unto us, in Isa 26.9. When thy Judgments are in the Earth, the Inhabitants of the World will Learn Righteousness. And now, Let us proceed by these Rules, in this our Duty.
The First Rule.
There is one thing in the Judgments of God, whereof we should alwayes be Afraid; that is, Lest we do make an Injudicious Interpretation of them. It is a caution given to us, in Psal. 36.6. Thy Judgments are a great Deep, O Lord; And we should be very cautious, Lest we drown our selves in such a Deep, when we go to Fathom it. The Judgments of God are those things, whereof ’tis said, Whose is Wise will Observe those things; but then we must be careful to proceed wisely in our observing of them. ‘Tis a Dangerous Thing for us, to indulge our own Fancy, & much more, for us to indulge our own Passion, in making of Glosses upon the Judgments of God: God will not hold the man guiltless, who shall so take His Name in vain. Very sad Things may befal the People of God, which if we should call them the Judgments of God, upon them, for some crime or other, this would be as great a crime in us as to Adulterate the Coin of the Nation. The Soveraign God, has made a Cross, to be necessary for all the Disciples of Him, who Dy’d upon the Cross; and He will in His Infinite Soveraignty, make choice of their Cross for them, to Exercise their Virtue, and prepare them and ripen them, for His Heavenly Kingdom. If we should be so wicked, as to suppose a Curse of God upon all that we see under the Cross, Behold, we should wickedly offend against the Generation of the Children of God. When the Sons of that Excellent Minister of God, Aaron the Priest of the Lord, came to an untimely End, it had been a vile Impiety in the Congregation of Israel, to have persecuted their Worthy and Aged Father, with any Censorious Imputations The Judgments of God are like to arrest none sooner, than the Rash Expositors of His Judgments on other men. The Jealous God, will soon Draw near in Judgment, unto those who Persecute them whom He hath Smitten, and who Talk to the Grief of those whom He hath Wounded Our Lord has given us, a most wholesome Admonition, to be generally made use of, when sore Disasters happen unto any of our Neighbours, in Luk. 13.4, 5. Think ye, that these were Sinners, above all others; I tell you Nay. But what shall we then do, to Determine a Judgment of God, upon a Sinner, for his being so? I answer First, The Sin of the Sinner must be evident, from the Scripture of God, before we may dare to Apply a Judgment of God; unto him. ‘Tis very preposterous, for us, first of all to take it for granted, This or that Calamity is a Judgment of God for some Iniquity; and then, upon this presumption, to Search out that Iniquity. And Secondly, A Judgment of God, for Sin, must be clothed with some convincing circumstance and Character upon it self, Reasonably to speak its being so, before we may venture to call it so. There must be something in the Time of it, or in the Place of it, or, in its Resemblance to the Fault for which it comes, or in the Confession of the person Chastised, that shall make the Conscience to say, are the plain Signatures of a Judgment for some Sin, in the Stroke now given by God! Having first Laid in this Antidote against Rash Judgments of our own, about the Great Judgments of God, we may safely go on, to say;
The Second Rule.
The Judgments of God in Former Ages, They should make us Afraid of the Sins which procured those Judgments. There came the Judgments of God upon the Murmurous Israelites; ‘Tis said in 1 Cor. 10.11. All these things happened unto them, for Examples, and they are written for our Admonition. Behold those Judgments then, and be Afraid of all Murmuring, be Afraid of all Impatience, be Afraid of all Discontent under the Difficulties of a Wilderness, Lest we be Destroy’d of the Destroyer. There came the Judgments of God upon the Debauched Sodomites; ‘Tis said in 2 Pet. 2.6. God made them an Example unto those that after should Live Ungodly. Behold those Judgments then, and be Afraid of all Debauchery, be Afraid of all Uncleanness, be Afraid of all Intemperance, Lest God condemn us with a Fiery and an Early Overthrow. Syrs, The History which the Bible hath given us, of the Judgments which have come from God, upon them that Sinn’d against Him, ’tis not only a Chronicle of what is past, but also a Calender of what is to come. We have the History; There we may Consider the Dayes of Old, the Years of Ancient Times. But when we do so, Let us be Afraid. Lest by Repeating of Old Sins, we bring a Repetition of Old Plagues upon our selves. When Thunder and Lightning from Heaven, suddenly calcin’d a poor Woman into a Lump of Salt, for her Coveteousness, near three Thousand and Eight Hundred Years ago, that Salt was to Season us with a Fear, Lest near the Time of the End, we perish like her; by setting our Hearts upon the World. Our Lord therefore said, on that occasion, in Luk. 17.32. Remember Lots Wife. Thus, I may say, Remember Judas, and be Afraid, Lest we perish as he did in betraying the Interests of the Lord Jesus Christ, for some Worldly Benefit Remember Herod, and be Afraid, Lest we perish as he did, in proud affectations of what belongs not unto us. Remember all the rest.
The Third Rule.
The Judgments of God on other places, They should make us Afraid, Lest we fall within the Circuit of those Judgments. When the Judgments of God, have begun their Walk, we have cause to be Afraid, Lest we fall into their Walk; because, with us, even with us also, there are Sins against the Lord our God. It was prophesied, in Jer. 25.32. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, Behold, Evil shall go forth from Nation to Nation. Do we Behold other Nations, grievously sharing in Distress of Nations, and great perplexity, we should be Afraid Lest we also have our share in the Distressing Judgments of God. Have the Judgments of God, sent War, and Poverty and Scarcity, upon other Nations? We have cause to be Afraid Lest the Evil of those Judgments reach unto our selves; and lest we Drink of that Cup of Trembling, which God seems to be putting into the Hands of all the Nations. A Fire on one House alarums all the Town. The Judgments of God have set all Europe on Fire; yea, the Sparks are flown over into America: Lamentable Desolations have been made both Northward & Southward of us; Be Afraid then, O poor people of God, Lest thou also become Desolate. When the Judgments of God, were in their course, He said unto His people, in Zeph. 3.6, 7. I have cut off the Nations, their Towers are Desolate, their Cities are Destroyed: I said, Surely Thou wilt Fear me. Thus, Do We see Destructions come upon other Countreys? Our God says thereupon, Surely, This Country too should be Afraid, Lest I bring the like upon them.
The Fourth Rule.
The Judgments of God, seizing upon a Few persons only, before our Eyes, They should make us Afraid, Lest we be the Next, that those Judgments do seiz upon. When One Malefactor dyed it was said, All the People shall Hear and Fear. Thus, if the Judgments of God single out one Malefactor, to punish him, His voice is, Let all be Afraid! It is noted of a miserable Minister, who falling into a Scandal, was presently overwhelmed by the Judgments of God, in Act. 5.5. Great Fear came upon all them that Heard these things. When the Judgments of God, had signalised themselves upon any Scandalous Wretches, we should all be struck, with a Great Fear, Lest our Sins Expose us also to the Signal Rebukes of Heaven. As, if one Drunkard in a Town be Drowned, it is a Loud Sermon to all the Bruits about the Town, to be Afraid, of being so cut off in their Bruitish Follies: Thus, in all the Special Judgments of God upon any Offenders whatsoever, there is that voice from Heaven to all such Offenders, Tremble, and Repent, Lest all of you likewise perish! Yea, The Judgments of God upon a Few, often should be seriously pondered by the Whole Body of the People, whom they belong unto, as a Decimation made by that God, who gives none Account of His matters. God hath a Controversy with the Whole Body of the People; He might have pitch’d upon me or thee, to have been the Subjects, on which he does manage this Controversy, as well as any other of our Neighbours. Oh! what cause have we now to be Afraid, of what we also have to meet withal! When the Judgments of God followed one man aboard the Vessel, bound for Tartessus, ’tis said, in Jon. 1.16. All the other men, feared the Lord exceedingly. Truly, If any one man aboard the Vessel of the Publick, be follow’d with a Storm of Judgments from God, it becomes us all, to Fear Exceedingly!