1 Peter 1:17-21
And if you call on the Father, who without respect of persons judges according to every man's work…
I. THE NATURE OF THE FEAR WHICH IS HERE ENJOINED. Fear is a passion implanted in our nature to deter us from what is hurtful, and to guard us against danger. To lose the favour of the Almighty here, and be eternally deprived of His presence hereafter, are evils the most formidable to man. And while fear imprints these so deeply on the mind as to produce an anxious dread of incurring His displeasure, and a serious concern to gain His approbation, it becomes that religious regulating principle which is here enjoined. There is a natural fear of God impressed upon the minds of all. He has infused His fear into our minds, that, by this rational awe, He might deter us from those practices to which our corrupt nature too much inclines us, and, by the sword of justice, overrule our affections, too refractory to be otherwise reclaimed. It may be observed, farther, that the rational fear before us is equally remote from that excess of fear which gives rise to superstition, and that unwarranted defect of it from which profane levity proceeds. It is a sober cheerfulness, a manly seriousness, which become the servants of God. This demands no melancholy abstraction from the world; it condemns the indulgence of no innocent delight. But calm and temperate enjoyment is the utmost that is assigned to man. And hence religion wisely recommends a spirit cheerful but composed, equally remote from the humiliating depression of fear and the exulting levity of joy. The propriety of fear as a regulating principle, not only religion, but the nature of our present state, the business here assigned us, the instability of all things round, and the awful concerns of futurity, concur to establish and enforce.
II. IN WHAT MANNER IT SHOULD INFLUENCE OUR CONDUCT IN THE PILGRIMAGE OF LIFE. To engage us to depart from evil and to keep the commandments is the direct tendency of religious fear. Calling forth our vigilance and circumspection, it will admonish us of latent dangers, and lead us to a faithful discharge of every duty and a serious preparation for eternity. Its influence will be habitual and steady. In every state, and at all times, the serious impression will be felt, by producing in our lives a constant fear of God, a virtuous deportment in the world, and a holy reverence for ourselves. Let us first consider its influence on our religious duties. To form right notions of the Deity, cherish suitable affections, and express these by acts of religious worship and a holy life, form the chief parts of piety. But not to the more immediate acts of public and private devotion will this influence be confined; it will extend to every act of religious obedience, and to everything sacred. It will form the constant temper of the true Christian, and direct the habitual tenor of this life. Nor is this destructive to human enjoyment. The restraints it imposes are curbs on vice; but real pleasure they extend and improve. It is rational enjoyment which they prescribe, in place of momentary bliss.
III. MOTIVES TO ENGAGE ALL TO LIVE HERE IN FEAR.
1. The nature of our present state and our future prospects calls upon us thus to fear. Can we rest in security where all is changing? Can we not be apprehensive where all things cause alarm? We stand on the brink of a precipice, from which the slightest breath may drive us headlong. Is this a place, is this a time, to swell in fancied security, riot in unlawful pleasure, and indulge in unbridled joy?
2. By living in fear we will escape unnumbered evils. From thoughtless inattention fatal dangers arise — fatal not only to our worldly prosperity, but to the far more important concerns of the soul.
3. It will promote the rational enjoyment of life. Always to tremble destroys felicity, but cautious fear improves and extends it. To the man that feareth always, no accident happens unexpected; no good gives immoderate joy, nor no evil unnecessary alarm.
4. It will demonstrate our attachment to Jesus, and lead to the fulfilment of the vows you solemnly came under at the table of your Lord.
5. It leads to happiness eternal. The time is at hand when fear shall no more disquiet.
(D. Malcolm, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: