Word of the Week: Transcendence

Holy Fear: The Great Earthquake, Part 3

Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here

"The earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because He was wroth." (Psalm 18:7).

The USGS essay regarding the historical New England earthquake of 1727 and its aftermath continues:

"The people of New England were affected by this earthquake as they had never been before, being fearful of divine judgments for their sins and lax responsiveness to the call to religious duties. The clergy taught them that it was "a loud call to the whole land to repent and fear and give glory to God." The next morning great numbers of the inhabitants of Boston gathered at the old North church for prayer and other religious services. The fear of further immediate danger was somewhat dispelled in the pleasant sunlight, but as soon as the sun had set their fright returned, and in greater numbers than in the morning the people crowded to the old Brick church, which could not hold them. The old South was then opened, and those who failed of admission to the Brick church flocked thither, and that was also filled. Rev. Thomas Paine of Weymouth, Mass., and some other ministers, tried to prove to their congregations that the earthquake had not a natural cause, but was a supernatural token of God's anger to the sinful world."

"The selectmen of Medford, Mass., appointed the next Wednesday as a day to be observed by fasting and prayer on account of the earthquake; and Lieutenant-governor Dummer recommended that Thursday should be kept in the same way for the same purpose throughout the province. Many sermons delivered on the latter and other days were printed and are still extant. In Salem, Mass., a meeting was held on Saturday at the upper meeting-house (then so called) which was attended by the largest congregation that was ever in that edifice."

They repented, the fasted, they prayed, and they entreated. The people fell down before a mighty God and supplicated in proper Holy Fear.

In his sermon "A Holy Fear of God and His Judgments" John Cotton defined Holy Fear:

--Trembling for fear of God implies our solemn an awful apprehensions of the great God, who brings such judgments upon us

--Trembling for fear of God means that we are sensibly touched and affected with the consideration of the judgments that are or may yet be brought upon us.

--Trembling for fear of God means our humbling ourselves exceedingly before Him who is thus visiting and threatening us.

Do we tremble? Rarely. We strut, we dismiss, we forget the power He wields, and holds back. Holy Fear, repentance, and awe of His majesty are not popular topics today. Prosperity, ecstatic experiences, all paths leading to heaven are the topics of today, when the bible is even referred to at all.

After a 9.0 quake, tsunami, and four volcanoes exploding, what should we ALL be doing? Repenting. Falling down on our faces. As Rev Cotton said, "It suggests that we so abhor them [judgments] that they make deep impressions upon our hearts; that our spirits are so sorrowfully affected with the tokens of the divine anger visible therein that we weep bitterly in secret places in the consideration thereof. Indeed, they have the power to make us cry out, "Oh that my head were waters, and mines eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night" (Jeremiah 9:1)."

We do not weep day and night for our own sins, faults, and failures. We do not weep for neglecting to give glory to God. We do not react thus: "When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself." (Habakkuk 3:16).

We shake our heads at the poor folks way over in Japan, and we move on. We do not do the first and proper thing: repent. I am not talking to only non-believers. I am talking to believers who have forgotten what it means to be a sinner falling into the hands of an angry God.

Why are not the churches in America full today? Why are not people weeping at altars, seeking forgiveness? Do we evidence a Holy Fear? No, we talk of prosperity with a flashy smile. As the USGS essay concludes, "Seriousness was the expression on the faces of most of the people, and in some towns, large numbers were added to the church. In the parish of Chebacco in Ipswich, Mass., for instance seventy-six persons became church members. The earthquake had its effect upon some licentious characters, who became truly reformed, and afterward led honorable and moral lives."

Rev Cotton finishes, "Oh, what need we have then to cry mightily unto God that He will make the impressions lasting on the souls of parents, children, young, old, rich, poor, bond and free! We have done it already. We will continue to do it, and we hope the Lord will not turn away our prayers nor His mercy from us." Will the dreadful impressions of God after the Japan quake last in you? I hope so.
Give glory to God for His power. Give glory to Jesus by living an honorable and moral life in Him.


  1. I'm not sure why you say "I am talking to believers who have forgotten what it means to be a sinner falling into the hands of an angry God."

    The Bible makes it clear that Jesus presents believers "blameless" before the Father (Jude 24), so, in God's eyes, we are not sinners and he will not be angry with us!

  2. There are two kinds of believers I am talking about here. The first are "in name only Christians" who are not really saved. They are the ones who will say to Jesus, "...'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'” (Mt 7:22) but Jesus will say "I never knew you, depart from me, you evildoers".(Mt 7:23) These are false believers who never really repented but played at religion. They LOOK like Christian believers, but they're not.

    The other believers are really saved believers but who squandered their faith by failing to repent for sins they commit after salvation, or by failing to forgive others after salvation. Matt 18:21-35 describes what happens to those who fail to forgive. When you don’t repent, you are still saved but the Lord does not hear your prayers nor does He bless you. When we do confess, the fellowship with God is restored and we are purified from unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9. Nothing can take away our salvation,which gives us union with Him but that is really only the beginning of the relationship with God because then there is lifelong fellowship

    In the former case, yes, the Lord will be angry. In the latter case, no, we are blameless and free from accusation (Colossians 1:22), but imagine the excruciating Bema Seat judgment (1 Corinthians 3:12-15,) when they stand before Him and know how they squandered His gift!

    The point I was making is that when God speaks through events like earthquakes, the Puritan/Colonials in Massachusetts evidenced the only proper response to it: re-examine their relationship with Him, understand Holy Fear, confess, and repent, which many did since the churches were overflowing. The reaction today among Christians-in-name only and in real Christians was not the same.


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