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 FEAR HERE RECOMMENDED is a holy self-suspicion and fear of offending God, which may not only consist with assured hope of salvation, and with faith, and love, and spiritual joy, but is their inseparable companion, as all Divine graces are linked together. And, as they dwell together, they grow or decrease together. The more a Christian believes, and loves, and rejoices in the love of God, the more unwilling surely he is to displease Him, and if in danger of displeasing Him, the more afraid is he of it; and, on the other side, this fear being the true principle of a wary and holy conversation, fleeing sin and the occasions of sin and temptations to it, is as a watch or guard that keeps out the enemies of the soul, and so preserves its inward peace, keeps the assurance of faith and hope unmolested, and that joy which they cause unimpaired, and the intercourse of love betwixt the soul and her beloved uninterrupted. Certainly a good man is sometimes driven to wonder at his own frailty and inconstancy. What strange differences will be betwixt him and himself! How high and how delightful at some times are his thoughts of God, and the glory of the life to come; and yet how easily at another time base temptations will bemire him, or, at the least, molest and vex him! And this keeps him in a continual fear, and that fear in continual vigilance and circumspection. When he looks up to God, and considers the truth of His promises, and the sufficiency of His grace and protection, and the almighty strength of His Redeemer, these things fill his soul with confidence and assurance; but when he turns his eye downward again upon himself, and finds so much remaining corruption within, and so many temptations and dangers and adversaries without, this forces him not only to fear, but to despair of himself; and it should do so, that his trust in God may be purer and more entire. This fear is not cowardice. It does not debase, but it elevates the mind; for it drowns all lower fears, and begets true fortitude to encounter all dangers, for the sake of a good conscience and the obeying of God. From this fear have sprung all the generous resolutions and patient sufferings of the saints and martyrs. Because they durst not sin against God, therefore they durst be imprisoned, and impoverished, and tortured, and die for Him.
II. THE REASON they have here to persuade to this fear is twofold.
1. Their relation to God us their Father and their Judge. But as He is the best Father, so consider that He is withal the greatest and most just Judge. There is here the sovereignty of this Judge, the universality of His judgment, and the equity of it. "Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear." You are encompassed with enemies and snares; how can you be secure in the midst of them? Perfect peace and security are reserved for you at home, and that is the end of your fear.
III. THE TERM OR CONTINUANCE OF THIS FEAR. It continues all the time of this sojourning life; it dies not before us: we and it shall expire together. "Blessed is he that feareth always," says Solomon; in secret and in society, in his own house and in God's. We must hear the Word with fear, and preach it with fear, afraid to miscarry in our intentions and manners. "Serve the Lord with fear," yea, in times of inward comfort and joy, "rejoice with trembling"; not only when a man feels most his own weakness, but when he finds himself strongest. None are so high advanced in grace here below as to be out of need of this grace; but when their sojourning shall be done, and they are come home to their Father's house above, then no more fearing. No entrance for dangers there, and therefore no fear.
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: