Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What is the Fear of God?

“Fear is the duty we owe to God, as being the God of power and justice, the great Judge of heaven and earth, the avenger of the cause of widows, the patron of the poor, and the advocate of the oppressed, a mighty God and terrible; and so essential an enemy to sin, that He spared not His own Son, but gave Him over to death, and to become a sacrifice, when He took upon Him our nature, and became a person obliged for our guilt. Fear is the great bridle of intemperance, the modesty of the spirit, and the restraint of gaieties and dissolutions; it is the girdle to the soul, and the handmaid to repentance; the arrest of sin, and the cure or antidote to the spirit of reprobation; it preserves our apprehensions of the divine majesty, and hinders our single actions from combining to sinful habits; it is the mother of consideration, and the nurse of sober counsels; and it puts the soul to fermentation and activity, making it to pass from trembling to caution, from caution to carefulness, from carefulness to watchfulness, from thence to prudence; and by the gates and progresses of repentance it leads the soul on to love, and to felicity, and to joys in God, that shall never cease again……”

I don’t much like the word fear, and I hope as not to live in fear, fear of God’s punishment or wrath, but there isn’t much in the above quote that I don’t find applied to my life. Certainly I fear consequences of wrong choices, and I fear losing the joy of the Spirit. I fear that my acts of sin may combine and become habits of destructive behavior. I fear loss; loss of God’s protection, loss of joy, loss of bonds with those I love, loss of intimacy with my spouse, loss of closeness with my children, and loss of security by foolish choices. So, when I think about it, I have lots of fears. Hopefully these fears are “bridles of intemperance”, and “antidotes” against self-destructive choices. Still, all that said, I feel compelled to clarify the word fear; I fear snakes, but it doesn't keep me from a walk in the woods; I fear a car wreck, but drive; I fear falling, so, I just walk a safe distance from the edge. I suppose those fears are similar in degree and emotion as the moral fears.

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