Gospel Fear (eBook)

by Jeremiah Burroughs

in ePub, .mobi & .pdf formats

Reformatted and updated to modern English

These following sermons are the works of the esteemed preacher, Mr. Jeremiah Burroughs, who is now a shining figure in the upper world. However, those who have been taken out of this sorrowful world and carried to the highest heaven by glorious angels have no need for the praise of humans, as they enjoy the presence of the eternal God. Therefore, I will turn my attention to these exceptional sermons that are presented before you. In the first three, you will discover a profound and glorious truth, namely, that a heart that trembles at God's Word is highly valuable in God's sight. This truth is explained clearly, supported thoroughly, and eloquently and faithfully applied. By God's grace, it can greatly contribute to the inner and everlasting well-being of your precious and immortal soul.

Before we proceed, let me clarify the various meanings of the term "Word" as used in the Scriptures. Firstly, at times, "Word" refers to the entirety of the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments. Secondly, "Word" may signify our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the life and essence of the Scriptures (as stated in John 1:3). Thirdly, "Word" can refer to the commands found in the Scriptures (Hebrews 1:4). Fourthly, "Word" may denote the warnings and threats issued by God. Fifthly, "Word" can represent the precious promises of God, as mentioned in Psalm 119:49. We should remember and hold on to these promises, as God is faithful and does not forget, but it is our duty to remind Him by actively seeking the fulfillment of His promises. Finally, "Word" can also pertain to the holy prophecies scattered throughout the Scriptures, as indicated in Jude 14.

This multifaceted understanding of the Word led a renowned minister in Germany, Baldusgar, to declare, "Let the Word of the Lord come, let it come, and we will willingly submit to it even if we had hundreds of necks to place under its yoke."

The purpose of the esteemed author in this small work is to persuade and influence the reader to submit to the Word, to be guided by the Word, to value the Word, to store up the Word, and to live according to the Word in a manner that reflects the teachings of the Gospel. The Jewish Rabbis used to say that there are mountains of profitable knowledge hanging upon every letter of the Law. I can assure you that in the following discussion, you will discover heavenly insights abounding in all the key points that this blessed author presents for your serious contemplation in this concise treatise. Here, you have Homer's Iliad condensed into a nutshell, containing abundant valuable material within a small space.

It is said of Caesar that he cared more for his books than for his royal garments. When he had to cross waters to escape his enemies, he carried his books in his hands above the waters but lost his robes. However, what significance do Caesar's books hold compared to God's books or to this little book now placed in your hands? Surely, the Word of the Lord is extremely precious to all those gracious souls who have a conscientious fear and reverence for it. Luther said he could not live even in paradise without the Word, but with the Word, he could endure living in hell itself. The philosopher expressed gratitude for being born in a time of true philosophy. Oh, how fortunate are we who are born in an era when the Lord pours out His Spirit abundantly, not in drops as in the time of the Law, but as showers of His gifts and graces. This was clearly evident in the author of this following piece. He was not just a day-star but the sun of righteousness that rose upon the people who were once privileged to sit under the author's ministry. It is also a great part of this world's blessings that they continue to be enriched by his excellent works to this very day.

One cannot claim that anything divine belongs to them until it resides in their heart. I can call a bird or any object mine when I hold it in my hand, but I cannot say that God is mine until He resides in my heart, or that Christ is mine until He resides in my heart, or that the Spirit is mine until He resides in my heart, or that grace is mine until it resides in my heart, or that the Word is mine until it resides in my heart. "I have hidden your word in my heart," says David, "that I might not sin against You." Therefore, dear reader, it is of utmost importance for you to internalise the Word that is presented before your eyes in this piece. Ah, Christians, your hearts are never in a better state, a safer state, a sweeter state, a happier state, a more gospel-oriented state than when they are in a trembling state. Therefore, make this little work your delightful companion until your hearts are brought into such a blessed state, and so on.

Obj. But can't reprobates and devils tremble at the Word? Didn't Belshazzar tremble at the handwriting? Didn't Felix tremble at the Word preached by Paul? And isn't it said that even the devils believe and tremble?

Ans. Wicked individuals and devils may indeed tremble at the judgments pronounced in the Word, but they do not tremble at the offense committed against God's holy commandments as sincere Christians do. In Ezra 10:3, Shecaniah declared, "We have trespassed against our God; let us make a covenant with our God according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandments of God." They tremble upon realizing their sins exposed by the commandments, whereas before, they were hardened in their practices such as marrying with the Canaanites. However, we find no evidence of this response in Belshazzar, Felix, or the devils.

Secondly, I respond that the wicked tremble but never mend their ways. Pharaoh trembled but never changed. Saul trembled but never improved. Belshazzar trembled but never corrected his actions. Felix trembled but never made amends. Even the devils tremble but never mend their ways. On the contrary, Paul trembled and cried out, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" The jailer also trembled and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

Thirdly, the trembling of the wicked pushes them further away from God and their duties. We see this in the example of Saul, who, in his trembling state, sought a witch. However, when godly individuals experience trembling, their souls draw closer to God. Jehoshaphat feared and set himself to seek the Lord, proclaiming a fast throughout all Judah. Saints, amidst their holy tremblings, pursue God fervently, just as the people followed Saul's tremblings.

[4] Fourthly, the godly tremble and mourn; their trembling hearts are broken hearts, and their broken hearts are trembling hearts. They look upon sin and tremble, and they look upon sin and mourn. In Jeremiah 25:13,17, it is written, "But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret places for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears." On the other hand, the wicked tremble, but their hearts remain as dry and hard as rocks, even harder than rocks. In Jeremiah 5:3, it is said, "They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return." Pharaoh trembled, yet he remained hardened, and the devils tremble, yet they too are hardened. If a single penitent tear could purchase heaven, hell could not offer that one tear. Repentant tears are precious. As Gregory said, they are the fat of the sacrifice; as Basil said, they are the medicine of the soul; as Bernard said, they are the wine of angels. However, these tears can only be found among those chosen souls who have a conscientious fear of God's Word and who possess the tender hearts depicted in this little treatise. Indeed, there is no worse state of spirit to encounter on this side of hell than the one that leads a sinner to shed counterfeit tears, to despise God's forbearance, and to rebel against His mercy. Such was the case with that profane Arian who was executed at Harwich, as recounted by Mr. Greenham in a strange and remarkable account. This hellish heretic, for that is how those who denied Christ's divinity were regarded in those times, shed a few insincere tears shortly before his execution and asked if he could be saved by Christ. When someone told him that he would not perish if he genuinely repented, he responded with these words: "No, if your Christ is indeed so easily persuaded as you say, then I defy Him and do not care for Him." Oh, what a horrible blasphemy and desperate wickedness! For a person to draw themselves away from repentance by using the very cord of love that should have drawn them towards it. But—

Fifthly, and finally, the hearts of wicked individuals and devils only tremble in anticipation of punishment and the impending judgment. It is similar to how a criminal trembles before the judge, weighed down by the sense of their impending doom. However, a child of God trembles under the weight of God's goodness and kindness towards them. In Hosea 3:7, it is written, "They shall fear the Lord and his goodness" or, as some interpret it, "They shall fear the Lord because of his goodness." The Hebrew phrase "pavebunt ad Dominum" can be understood as "trembling, they shall make haste to Him" (similar to how startled doves hasten to their nests, as seen in Hosea 11:11). Just as holy tremblings and gladness can coexist (Psalm 2:11), and as holy fear and joy can coexist (as seen in the women who left Christ's tomb with fear and great joy in Matthew 28:8, a peculiar combination of two contrasting emotions often found in the purest hearts), so too can holy love and trembling coexist. When a child, filled with love for their father, perceives that they have caused offense or sorrow, they tremble, much like the poor woman in Mark 5:33, who approached Christ with trembling, fearing that she had offended Him, yet with a heart full of love for Him. Thus, when a child of God fixes one eye upon the holiness and justice of God, they tremble; and when, at the same time, they fix their other eye upon the patience, goodness, graciousness, and willingness of God to forgive as a father, they experience love and joy. However, the trembling of the wicked arises solely from the anticipation of impending wrath and the torment they already feel in their conscience, even before reaching hell. I thought it necessary to mention these five points so that the reader may be better equipped to address the same objection when encountering it in this small work.

The refreshing dew of heaven has abundantly fallen upon many, yet like Gideon's fleece, they remain dry while the regions around them are soaked. Isn't this the case with many nowadays, who sit under the preaching of the Gospel and have access to the works of renowned men every day? And yet, how is it that their souls resemble the mountains of Gilboa, upon which neither dew nor rain descended? This is truly a lamentable state. When the books of the law accidentally fall to the ground, the Jews immediately declare a fast. Oh, my friends, what reason do we have to fast and mourn when we witness the Word preached, printed, and offered being trampled upon today by atheists, papists, Socinians, and other vain individuals? The Jews have a law that commands them to pick up any piece of paper they find lying on the ground, lest perhaps the Word of God be written on it and unknowingly trodden underfoot. While Christians should be free from such superstitious concerns, they ought to be extremely cautious that not even the smallest iota of the Word, the slightest truth revealed in the Word, be trampled underfoot by themselves or others. We must consider its excellence and usefulness as a guide, as a light that leads us through the wilderness of this world towards the heavenly Canaan. Proverbs 6:22 states, "When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee." According to the gloss of the Rabbinical interpreters, this means that the Word will lead you in your journey through this world, it will keep you when you lie down in the grave, and it will speak to you when you awaken at the glorious resurrection. But to keep the introduction brief, I shall hasten to a conclusion. Among all others, there are three types of individuals to whom I earnestly recommend this treatise.

[1] Firstly, this treatise is intended for those who tremble at the Word and possess tender and sensitive hearts. They will discover valuable comforts, special encouragements, and exceptional support to uplift and sustain them during their greatest trials, whether internal or external, and even in the most challenging of times.

[2] Secondly, it is also meant for those who are bold sinners, secure sinners, insensitive sinners, and unaware sinners. They will encounter a variety of arguments that aim to awaken, startle, soften, and bring them into a state of trembling and tenderness. The treatise provides them with specific guidance and advice on how to attain those spiritual dispositions that hold infinitely more value than all the crowns and kingdoms that people are presently striving for at the cost of bloodshed.

[3] Thirdly, it is intended for those who experience numerous fears, doubts, and internal debates regarding whether they truly tremble at the Word and possess a tender heart. I dare to assert that such individuals will find in this treatise those blessed truths that, through divine blessings, will dispel their fears, resolve their doubts, and bring a favorable resolution to all their internal struggles.

Reader, once you have sincerely read through this small treatise, I am confident that you will readily agree with me on the following points: Firstly, the two main themes discussed here, namely, our trembling at God's Word and possessing a tender heart, are of great significance and weight. Secondly, they are noble and essential aspects that all should strive to understand and comprehend in order to attain blessings in this life and happiness in the hereafter. Thirdly, they are timely and appropriate subjects for the days and times in which we live, characterized by a multitude of sins and accompanied by severe spiritual judgments such as blindness, hardness, and insensitivity. Fourthly, these themes encompass various other crucial points that are intricately intertwined and dependent upon them. Lastly, they are not frequently addressed from the pulpit or widely disseminated through printed materials.

Reader, a dear friend has convinced me to trouble you with reading this letter. Now, I shall conclude with a few words of advice.

  1. Let the person who lays their eyes upon this book not borrow it, but purchase it.
  2. Read it with seriousness.
  3. Value it greatly.
  4. Pray earnestly over it.
  5. Strive to align both your heart and your life with the teachings found within it.
  6. Treasure it among your most prized possessions.
  7. And when you are in a position of spiritual strength, remember the sincere and heartfelt desire of the writer, reader, and listener that this little piece may be greatly blessed.

With that, I bid you farewell and rest,

Your true friend and servant to your soul, 

Thomas Brooks.


Table of Contents

To the Reader

SERMON I. And that Trembleth at My Word.

SERMON. II. What the True Sanctified Fear of God and His Word is.

SERMON III. A Broken, an Humble Heart

SERMON IV. But by Way of Application.


SERMON VI. The Preciousness of a Tender Heart.

SERMON VII. Because thine heart was tender

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