Saturday, June 16, 2012

Jeremiah Burroughs: 5 Ways God Uses Fear to Bring Men to Himself

Jeremiah Burroughs
I’ve been reading a book called Gospel Fear. It has an assortment of sermons given by Jeremiah Burroughs, a Puritan who lived from 1599-1646. The sermons in this book have been such a blessing to my soul, and I thought I’d share something I found in the second sermon of the book titled, "What True Sanctified Trembling Is" taken from Isaiah 66:2.

Burroughs answers the objection that some people tremble at the Word of God and yet go into eternal damnation. If some tremble at God’s word and yet are lost for eternity, then what is it to tremble properly, or what is the kind of fear God uses for salvation? Burroughs says in response: “If you put but these four or five things together that I am now speaking of, you shall see a great deal of difference between the fear that comes to nothing and the fear that God brings to something at last” (28).There is indeed fear that God uses to bring men unto himself:

       1.      When the fear of God swells in the heart and overcomes all other fears. Burroughs says, “Now the soul that is thus brought to trembling, to apprehend the breach between God and it and the evil of sin as the Word reveals it to be the greatest evil of all…the Word reveals to it that it is a thing of infinite difficulty to make up peace with God” (29). Basically, when we understand the chasm between us and God so that we know we could never make peace with him and that becomes our greatest fear, that is a good and healthy fear.

             2.      When the soul “is possessed with great fear as it justifies God” (29). That is, when the soul admits that God is correct and just in his judgments over our sin. Burroughs states, “Though the Word speaks dreadful things against me, yet the Word of God is just, and God is righteous in his word… When the heart comes to this, it indeed comes to be in a hopeful condition” (29).

             3.      When the heart trembles not only at the wrath of God, but also at the departure and loss of communion with God. Burroughs says, “Many a carnal heart may tremble when it hears of the threats of hell and of eternal fire, but for the heart to tremble at the apprehension of God’s departing from it, and of its rejection from the holy and blessed God, oh, it’s a very good sign when the heart trembles at this” (30).

             4.      When “the heart so trembles at the word of God that nothing can quiet it; nothing can ever satisfy it but reconciliation with God” (30). Burroughs mentions those who fear God in time of sickness, but when health returns they forget the Word. The heart that fears God will never be quieted, however, unless it is finally reconciled to God, despite the circumstances of life.

             5.      Finally, when “this fear is that which does not drive the heart from God...nor fly in despair of God” (30). Rather, “it is a fear that brings the heart unto God, that drives it to God powerfully” (30). Many apostates and demons have a fear that drives them away from God. But a fear which drives men unto God is fear that is, naturally, good and right.

In closing, Burroughs' own words:
“Though I will not say that this very [fear] is saving grace, I will say that there is no example that can be shown in Scripture where this work has been but the Lord has gone further with the soul” (30-31).

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