Jonathan Edwards on Assurance
I've blogged before about what it means for a Christian to fear God, especially in conjunction with my thoughts on 1 Peter 1:17, "And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile." Christians differ on what it means to fear the Lord, and non-Christians generally question both the need and propriety of such a doctrine in respect to a loving God.
I found some unexpected wisdom to this point in a letter by Jonathan Edwards. The quote below comes from a discussion on Christian assurance in relation to the shortcomings of the first Great Awakening:
"And I am persuaded we shall generally be sensible, before long, that we run too fast when we endeavor by our positive determinations to banish all fears of damnation from the minds of men, though they may be true saints, if they are not such as are eminently humble and mortified, and (what the Apostle calls) "rooted and grounded in love" [Ephesians 3:17]. It seems to be running before the Spirit of God. God by his Spirit does not give assurance any other way, than by advancing these things in the soul. He does not wholly cast out fear, the legal principle, but by advancing and filling the soul full of love, the evangelical principle. When love is low in the true saints, they need the fear of hell to deter them from sin, and engage them to exactness in their walk, and stir them up to seek heaven. But when love is high, and the soul full of it, we don't need fear. And therefore a wise God has so ordered it that love and fear should rise and fall like the scales of a balance."
In other words, such fear isn't meant to last. It's a condescension, a means of preservation for the believer until he attains such a maturity in his love for God that he needs no other impetus to persevere in the faith to the end of his days.
John Piper recently posted another link to an Edwards quote that was foundational for him in the formulation of what he calls "Christian hedonism." He pulls a lot from Edwards, Lewis, and a myriad of other respected, historical theologians. This particular link is to a paragraph explaining the way that our delight in God is the climax of our glorifying God. Check it out and check out C.S. Lewis' sermon "The Weight of Glory" (attached) for more.