Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Heir of Heaven (Walking in Darkness) and the Heir of Hell (Walking in Light)

Part Three - The Fear of God Continued

But the same ray of supernatural light which reveals to us that there is a God, manifests also His purity and holiness, His universal presence, His abhorrence of evil and His heart-searching eye. And this it manifests not as a mere doctrine, to form an article of a creed or a part of a system, but as a mighty truth, a divine conviction, lodged and planted in the depths of the soul, which becomes, so to speak, a part of ourselves, so as never more to be sundered from us or lost out of the heart.

But it may be asked, how are we to know whether we possess this spiritual and genuine fear of God, and how are we to distinguish it from all counterfeits? Like all other graces of the blessed Spirit, it must be seen in its own light, tasted in its own savour, and felt in its own power. But wherever this divine fruit of eternal election grows, it will be manifested by the effects which it produces. And thus, those children of God, who have not faith to believe, nor spiritual discernment to see, nor divine unction to feel, that they are true partakers of this heavenly fear, may have it manifested to their consciences that they really possess it, when they hear its effects and operations traced out, and have an inward witness that they have experienced the same. And this is the grand use of experimental preaching, against which so many proud professors shoot out their arrows, even bitter words; that, under the Spirit’s unction, it sheds a light on the path of those that walk in darkness, removes stumbling stones out of the way of those that are ready to halt, strengthens the weak hands, and confirms the feeble knees. To see the sun shining in the mid-day sky and to feel its cheering beams is the surest evidence that he is risen; but to see him reflected in the trembling waters of a brook, or to trace him dimly through clouds and mists, is a proof also that it is day. And thus, those dear children of God, who cannot behold the beams of the Sun of Righteousness, nor feel His warmth in their souls, may see Him reflected in the experience of their trembling hearts, or trace His work within through the mists of unbelief. A child of God may not be able to see the fear itself, yet may feel that he has experienced its effects and operations, when he hears them traced out by a minister of Christ, who speaks out of the fulness of an exercised heart.

One evidence, then, of our being partakers of this godly fear is the INWARD FEELING OF GUILT and the SENSE OF OUR EXCEEDING VILENESS which always accompanies it. The same ray of divine light which manifests Jehovah to the soul, and raises up a spiritual fear of Him within, discovers to us also our inward depravity. Until we see heavenly light we know not what darkness is; until we view eternal purity we are ignorant of our own vileness; until we hear the voice of inflexible justice we feel no guilt; until we behold a heart searching God we do not groan beneath our inward deceitfulness; and until we feel that He abhors evil we do not abhor ourselves.

Thus all supernatural communications from God and manifestations of Him show us, at the same moment and in the same light, a holy Jehovah and a fallen sinner, heavenly purity and creature vileness, God on the throne of light and a worm of the dust, a righteous Judge and a leper on the dunghill. The regenerate soul looks with the spiritual eye which the Holy Ghost has planted in it, first up unto God, then down into itself. So it was with Moses, when he heard “the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words” and said, “I exceedingly fear and quake” (Heb.12:19,21). Thus was it with Job, when he said: “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (42:5-6). Isaiah, on a similar vision of the glory of the Lord cried out: “Woe is me! for I am undone” (6:5). Daniel’s “comeliness was turned in him into corruption” (10:8); and John “fell at Christ’s feet as dead” (Rev. 1:17). If you have never felt guilt, nor abhorred yourself in dust and ashes, you may depend upon it that you have never “seen God” (3 John 11); and if you have never seen God with the spiritual eye of a living faith, you are dead in sins, or dead in a profession.

As Job says: “Your excellency may mount up to the heavens, and your head reach unto the clouds” (Job 20:6); but if you have never felt in your mouth “the wormwood and the gall,” have never groaned, being burdened, nor roared for very disquietness of heart; if you have never cried as a criminal for mercy, nor put your mouth into the dust—you are a dead branch, a rotten hypocrite, an empty professor. You may talk about the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ like one of those “prating fools that shall fall” (Prov.10:10); but if the plague of leprosy has never broken out in you, and that “deeper than the skin” (Lev. 13:25); and if you have never as a loathsome wretch, a monster of inward pollution and iniquity, had “your clothes rent, your head bare, and a covering upon your upper lip” (Lev.13:45), you have never tasted the love, nor felt the atoning blood of the Saviour. He is to you a name, not a person; an idea, not a reality; a Saviour in the letter, not a Saviour in the Spirit; a Christ in your Bible, not a Christ in your heart; an Immanuel of whom you have heard, but not an Immanuel whom you have seen, and who is “God with you.”

Another evidence of the reality and genuineness of the fear of the Lord in the soul is THE WAY IN WHICH WE APPROACH GOD IN SECRET PRAYER. Until we see God in the light of His own manifestations, we cannot worship Him in spirit and in truth. We may utter prayers in public or in private, written or unwritten, taught in childhood or learned in age, repeated from memory or suggested at the moment; and yet, if we have never seen God in the light of His holiness, we have never prayed to Him in our lives. Some of you in this congregation may have had family prayers, and others of you may have prayed at prayer meetings, and been so pleased with your own gift and the applause of empty professors as to think yourself fit for the ministry, and have got your foot almost on the steps of a pulpit. And what advantage have you reaped by your fleshly prayers? Are you nearer to heaven or more acceptable to God? No. But on the contrary, to the long, black catalogue of your sins you have added that blackest of all— presumption . Instead of pleasing God, you have offended Him; instead of worshipping, you have mocked Him; and instead of taking so many steps nearer and nearer to heaven, you have only been taking so many steps nearer and nearer to hell. “Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth, they are a trouble unto Me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear” (Isa. 1:14-15). “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers, therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation” (Matt. 23:14).

Now the only cure for this awful presumption and hypocrisy is the fear of God planted by His own divine hand in the soul. He that is blessed with godly fear, as an internal, abiding principle, cannot mock God. He cannot offer Him the dead sacrifice, the stinking carcase of formality, superstition, tradition, hypocrisy and self-righteousness. He cannot go on, year after year, to mock the ever-living Jehovah to His face, as thousands do in the Church of England, and out of it, by confessing grief for sins for which they never felt sorry, asking for blessings which they never desired, and thanking God for mercies for which they have no gratitude. His soul will be, more or less deeply, and more or less frequently, penetrated with such an inward reverence, such a holy awe, such a realizing sense of the solemn presence of the great holy God of heaven and earth that he will confess his sins, not out of a Prayer Book, but out of the depth of a contrite heart; will beg for mercy, not as a child repeats his A B C, but as a sinking criminal at the bar of judgment; and will cry for the light of God’s countenance, not as a Parish Clerk mumbles forth, “Hear us, good Lord,” but as one in whom “the Spirit itself maketh intercession with groanings that cannot be uttered.”


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