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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « The Testimony of Dr. Daniel Wong | Main | Book Review: Recovering the Reformed Confession, by R. Scott Clark »

    Would You Grow in the Grace of the Fear of God?

    Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of A MURMURING AND REPINING HEART, for that is not a heart for this grace of fear to grow in. As for instance, when men murmur and repine at God's hand, at his dispensations, and at the judgments that overtake them, in their persons, estates, families, or relations, that their murmuring tendeth to destroy fear; for a murmuring spirit is such an one as seems to correct God, and to find fault with his dispensations, and where there is that, the heart is far from fear. A murmuring spirit either comes from that wisdom that pretends to understand that there is a failure in the nature and execution of things, or from an envy and spite at the execution of them. Now if murmurings arise from this pretended wisdom of the flesh, then instead of fearing of God, his actions are judged to be either rigid or ridiculous, which yet are done in judgment, truth, and righteousness. So that a murmuring heart cannot be a good one for the fear of God to grow in. Alas! the heart where that grows must be a soft one; as you have it in Job 23:15, 16; and a heart that will stoop and be silent at the most abstruse of all his judgments—"I was dumb, because THOU didst it." The heart in which this fear of God doth flourish is such, that it bows and is mute, if it can but espy the hand, wisdom, justice, or holiness of God in this or the other of his dispensations, and so stirs up the soul to fear before him. But if this murmuring ariseth from envy and spite, that looketh so like to the spirit of the devil, that nothing need be said to give conviction of the horrible wickedness of it. - Excerpt from The Fear of God by John Bunyan

    What things they are that have a tendency in them to hinder the growth of the fear of God in our hearts.

    And that I may yet be helpful to thee, reader, I shall now give thee caution of those things that will, if way be given to them, hinder thy growth in this fear of God, the which, because they are very hurtful to the people of God, I would have thee be warned by them. And they are these which follow:

    First. If thou wouldest grow in this grace of fear, take heed of A HARD HEART, for that will hinder thy growth in this grace. "Why hast thou hardened our heart from thy fear?" was a bitter complaint of the church heretofore; for it is not only the judgment that in itself is dreadful and sore to God's people, but that which greatly hindereth the growth of this grace in the soul (Isa 63:17). A hard heart is but barren ground for any grace to grow in, especially for the grace of fear: there is but little of this fear where the heart is indeed hard; neither will there ever be much therein.

    Now if thou wouldest be kept from a hard heart, 1. Take heed of the beginnings of sin. Take heed, I say, of that, though it should be never so small; "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." There is more in a little sin to harden, than in a great deal of grace to soften. David's look upon Bathsheba was, one would think, but a small matter; yet that beginning of sin contracted such hardness of heart in him, that it carried him almost beyond all fear of God. It did carry him to commit lewdness with her, murder upon the body of Uriah, and to abundance of wicked dissimulation; which are things, I say, that have direct tendency to quench and destroy all fear of God in the soul.

    2. If thou hast sinned, lie not down without repentance; for the want of repentance, after one has sinned, makes the heart yet harder and harder. Indeed a hard heart is impenitent, and impenitence also makes the heart harder and harder. So that if impenitence be added to hardness of heart, or to the beginning of sin which makes it so, it will quickly be with that soul, as is said of the house of Israel, it will have a whore's forehead, it will hardly be brought to shame (Jer 3:3).

    3. If thou wouldest be rid of a hard heart, that great enemy to the growth of the grace of fear, be much with Christ upon the cross in thy meditations; for that is an excellent remedy against hardness of heart: a right sight of him, as he hanged there for thy sins, will dissolve thy heart into tears, and make it soft and tender. "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, - and mourn" (Zech 12:10). Now a soft, a tender, and a broken heart, is a fit place for the grace of fear to thrive in. But,

    Second. If thou wouldest have the grace of fear to grow in thy soul, take heed also of A PRAYERLESS HEART, for that is not a place for this grace of fear to grow in. Hence he that restraineth prayer is said to cast off fear. "Thou castest off fear," said one of his friends to Job. But how must he do that? Why the next words show, "Thou restrainest prayer before God" (Job 15:4). Seest thou a professor that prayeth not? that man thrusteth the fear of God away from him. Seest thou a man that prays but little, that man feareth God but little; for it is the praying soul, the man that is mighty in praying, that has a heart for the fear of God to grow in. Take heed, therefore, of a prayerless heart, if you would grow in this grace of the fear of God. Prayer is as the pitcher that fetcheth water from the brook, therewith to water the herbs; break the pitcher, and it will fetch no water, and for want of water the garden withers.

    Third. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of A LIGHT AND WANTON HEART, for neither is such a heart good ground for the fear of God to grow in. Wherefore it is said of Israel, "She feared not, but went and played the harlot also." She was given to wantonness, and to be light and vain, and so her fear of God decayed (Jer 3:8). Had Joseph been as wanton as his mistress, he had been as void of the fear of God as she; but he was of a sober, tender, godly, considerate spirit, therefore he grew in the fear of God.

    Fourth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of A COVETOUS HEART, for neither is that which is such an one good ground for this grace of fear to grow in. Therefore this covetousness and the fear of God are as enemies, set the one in opposition to the other: one that feareth God and hateth covetousness (Exo 18:21). And the reason why covetousness is such an obstruction to the growth of this grace of fear, is because covetousness casteth those things out of the heart which alone can nourish this fear. It casteth out the Word and love of God, without which no grace can grow in the soul; how then should the fear of God grow in a covetous heart? (Eze 33:30-32; 1 John 2:15).

    Fifth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of AN UNBELIEVING HEART, for an unbelieving heart is not good ground for this grace of fear to grow in. An unbelieving heart is called "an evil heart," because from it flows all the wickedness that is committed in the world (Heb 3:12). Now it is faith, or a believing heart, that nourisheth this fear of God, and not the other; and the reason is, for that faith brings God, heaven, and hell, to the soul, and maketh it duly consider of them all (Heb 11:7). This is therefore the means of fear, and that which will make it grow in the soul; but unbelief is a bane thereto.

    Sixth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of A FORGETFUL HEART. Such a heart is not a heart where the grace of fear will flourish, "when I remember, I am afraid," &c. Therefore take heed of forgetfulness; do not forget but remember God, and his kindness, patience, and mercy, to those that yet neither have grace, nor special favour from him, and that will beget and nourish his fear in thy heart, but forgetfulness of this, or of any other of his judgments, is a great wound and weakening to this fear (Job 21:6). When a man well remembers that God's judgments are so great a deep and mystery, as indeed they are, that remembrance puts a man upon such considerations of God and of his judgments as to make him fear—"Therefore," said Job, "I am afraid of him." See the place, Job 23:15. "Therefore am I troubled at his presence; when I consider, I am afraid of him"—when I remember and consider of the wonderful depths of his judgments towards man.

    Seventh. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of A MURMURING AND REPINING HEART, for that is not a heart for this grace of fear to grow in. As for instance, when men murmur and repine at God's hand, at his dispensations, and at the judgments that overtake them, in their persons, estates, families, or relations, that their murmuring tendeth to destroy fear; for a murmuring spirit is such an one as seems to correct God, and to find fault with his dispensations, and where there is that, the heart is far from fear. A murmuring spirit either comes from that wisdom that pretends to understand that there is a failure in the nature and execution of things, or from an envy and spite at the execution of them. Now if murmurings arise from this pretended wisdom of the flesh, then instead of fearing of God, his actions are judged to be either rigid or ridiculous, which yet are done in judgment, truth, and righteousness. So that a murmuring heart cannot be a good one for the fear of God to grow in. Alas! the heart where that grows must be a soft one; as you have it in Job 23:15, 16; and a heart that will stoop and be silent at the most abstruse of all his judgments—"I was dumb, because THOU didst it." The heart in which this fear of God doth flourish is such, that it bows and is mute, if it can but espy the hand, wisdom, justice, or holiness of God in this or the other of his dispensations, and so stirs up the soul to fear before him. But if this murmuring ariseth from envy and spite, that looketh so like to the spirit of the devil, that nothing need be said to give conviction of the horrible wickedness of it.

    Eighth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of A HIGH AND CAPTIOUS SPIRIT, for that is not good ground for the fear of God to grow in. A meek and quiet spirit is the best, and there the fear of God will flourish most; therefore Peter puts meekness and fear together, as being most suited in their nature and natural tendency one to another (1 Peter 3:15). Meekness of spirit is like that heart that hath depth of earth in it in which things may take root and grow; but a high and captious spirit is like to the stony ground, where there is not depth of earth, and consequently, where this grace of fear cannot grow; therefore take heed of this kind of spirit, if thou wouldest that the fear of God should grow in thy soul.

    Ninth. Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of AN ENVIOUS HEART, for that is not a good heart for the fear of God to grow in. "Let not thine heart envy sinners; but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long" (Prov 23:17). To envy any is a sign of a bad spirit, and that man takes upon him, as I have already hinted, to be a controller and a judge, yea, and a malicious executioner too, and that of that fury that ariseth from his own lusts and revengeful spirit, upon (perhaps) the man that is more righteous than himself. But suppose he is a sinner that is the object of thine envy, why, the text sets that envy in direct opposition to the fear of God; "Envy not sinners, but be thou in the fear of God." These two, therefore, to wit, envy to sinners and fearing of God, are opposites. Thou canst not fear God, and envy sinners too. And the reason is, because he that envieth a sinner, hath forgotten himself, that he is as bad; and how can he then fear God? He that envies sinners rejects his duty of blessing of them that curse, and praying for them that despitefully use us; and how can he that hath rejected this, fear God? He that envieth sinners, therefore, cannot be of a good spirit, nor can the fear of God grow in his heart.

    Tenth. Lastly, Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of HARDENING THY HEART at any time against convictions to particular duties, as to prayer, alms, self-denial, or the like. Take heed also of hardening thy heart, when thou art under any judgment of God, as sickness, losses, crosses, or the like. I bid you before to beware of a hard heart, but now I bid you beware of hardening your soft ones. For to harden the heart is to make it worse than it is; harder, more desperate, and bold against God, than at the present it is. Now, I say, if thou wouldest grow in this grace of fear, take heed of hardening thy heart, and especially of hardening of it against convictions to good; for those convictions are sent of God like seasonable showers of rain, to keep the tillage of thy heart in good order, that the grace of fear may grow therein; but this stifling of convictions makes the heart as hard as a piece of the nether millstone. Therefore happy is he that receiveth conviction, for so he doth keep in the fear of God, and that fear thereby nourished in his soul; but cursed is he that doth otherwise—"Happy is the man that feareth alway; but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief" (Prov 28:14).

    Posted by John on October 22, 2008 04:45 PM

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    Why all the poetic language?

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