And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
I. As to THE FEAR of the text, it may be well to discriminate. There is a kind of fear towards God from which we must not wish to be free. There is that lawful, necessary, admirable, excellent fear which is always due from the creature to the Creator, from the subject to the king, ay, and from the child toward the parent. To have a holy awe of our most holy, just, righteous, and tender parent is a privilege, not a bondage. Godly fear is not the "fear which hath torment;" perfect love doth not east out, but dwells with it in joyful harmony. The fear which is to be avoided is slaving fear — that trembling which keeps us at a distance from God, which makes us think of Him as a Spirit with whom we can have no communion, as a Being who has no care for us except to punish us, and for whom consequently we have no care except to escape if possible from His terrible presence.
1. This fear sometimes arises in men's hearts from their thoughts dwelling exclusively upon the Divine greatness. Is it possible to peer long into the vast abyss of Infinity and not to fear? Can the mind yield itself up to the thought of the Eternal, Self-existent, Infinite One without being filled first with awe and then with dread? What am I? An aphis creeping upon a rosebud is a more considerable creature in relation to the universe of beings than I can be in comparison with God. We have had the impertinence to be disobedient to the will of this great One; and now the goodness and greatness of His nature are as a our. rent against which sinful humanity struggles in vain, for the irresistible torrent must run its course, and overwhelm every opponent. What does the great God seem to us out of Christ but a stupendous rock, threatening to crush us, or a fathomless sea, hastening to swallow us up? The contemplation of the Divine greatness may of itself fill man with horror, and cast him into unutterable misery!
2. Each one of the sterner attributes of God will cause the like fear. Think of His power by which He rolls the stars along, and lay thy hand upon thy mouth. Think of His wisdom by which He numbers the clouds, and settles the ordinances of heaven. Meditate upon any one of these attributes, but especially upon His justice, and upon that devouring fire which burns unceasingly against sin, and it is no wonder if the soul becomes full of fear. Meanwhile, let a sense of sin with its great whip of wire flagellate the conscience, and man will dread the bare idea of God.
3. Wherever there is a slavish dread of the Divine Being, it alienates man most thoroughly from his God. Those whom we slavishly dread we cannot love. Here is the masterpiece of Satan, that he will not let the understanding perceive the excellence of God's character, and then the heart cannot love that which the understanding does not perceive to be loveable.
4. Fear creates a prejudice against God's gospel of grace. People think that if they were religious they would be miserable. Oh, could they comprehend, could they but know how good God is, instead of imagining that His service would be slavery, they would understand that to be His friends is to occupy the highest and happiest position which created beings can occupy.
5. This fear in some men puts them out of all heart of ever being saved. Thinking God to be an ungenerous Being, they keep at a distance from Him.
6. This wicked dread of God frequently drives men to extremities of sin.
7. This fear dishonours God.
8. This fear hath torment. No more tormenting misery in the world than to think of God as being our implacable foe.
II. THE CURE FOR THIS FEAR. God with us: God made flesh — that is the remedy.
1. According to the text they were not to fear, because the angel had come to bring them good news. He who made the heavens slumbers in a manger. What then? Why, then God is not of necessity an enemy to man, because here is God actually taking manhood into alliance with Deity. Is there not comfort in that?
2. The second point that takes away fear is that this man who was also God was actually born. He is more man than Adam was, for Adam never was born; Adam never had to struggle through the risks and weaknesses of infancy; he knew not the littlenesses of childhood — he was full-grown at once; whereas Jesus is cradled with us in the manger, accompanies us in the pains and feebleness and infirmities of infancy, and continues with us even to the grave.
3. Christ's office is to deliver us from sin. Here is joy upon joy.
III. APPLY THE CURE TO VARIOUS CASES. Encouragement to the weak, the sinful, the lonely, the tempted. There is no cause for any to keep away from God, since Jesus has come to bring all to Him.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.