The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.
(with 1 John 4:18)
Fear has a place in the Gospel; may we but find it. Indeed, it is an old remark that every natural principle of our minds, every true inborn feeling in these hearts of ours—desire, affection, devotion, even anger, even indignation, hatred itself—has an object assigned to it—is not to be crushed and trampled out, only to be redirected—in that new and latest utterance of God to His creatures which is the Gospel of grace and salvation. So it is, certainly, with fear. The object of fear may be either a thing or a person.
I. We fear a thing which, being possible, is also undesirable or dreadful. We do not fear that which is impossible; we do not fear that which is pleasant or neutral. Our Prayer-book, commenting in the catechism upon the Lord's Prayer, bids us call three things evil, not pain, not sickness, hot loss, not bereavement, not even natural death, but just these only: (1) sin and wickedness; (2) our ghostly enemy; (3) everlasting death. These three things then are the proper objects of Gospel fear.
II. The fear of God as a Person, even the dread of God as a Person, is essentially of a high order. To feel that there is One above me, a living Being, to whom I am accountable, if it be but as my Judge, to whom I am something, if it be but as a malefactor and a victim—there is something elevating in the very conception. But this, if it stop here, is the religion of nature, of fallen nature, of the thing made and corrupted crouching beneath the hand of its Maker. This mere dread, though it is a higher thing than indifference, is no part of the Gospel. From this kind of fear the convinced man, if he yields himself to Christ's teaching, will pass on into a higher. Of all love, that is the most beautiful which is the gradual produce of the godliest fear. It springs not out of the forgetfulness, but out of the experience, of what I am and of what God is. It is no sentimental dream, no highly coloured fancy, no one-sided view of God's revelation; it takes in all the truth, and is founded upon a rock.
C. J. Vaughan, Last Words at Doncaster, p. 19.
References: Proverbs 28:14-28.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. iii., p. 272. Proverbs 28:20-22.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 227.
Proverbs 28:26I. We may take these words of the Book of Proverbs as a warning to seek self-knowledge. And, as a first step to self-knowledge, they bid us beware of trusting our own heart, or we shall but see ourselves, in a high moral sense, to be "fools" at last. But it may be asked, Is not the heart God's creation and God's gift? Did He not plant eyes in it and give to it; light and discernment to guide our ways? Why must a man who trusts his own heart be a fool? (1) Because our hearts—that is, we ourselves—are ignorant of ourselves. If we knew ourselves, we should not trust ourselves; we do so because we do not know what we are. (2) Not only is the heart ignorant of itself, but it deceives itself. Ignorance is the danger of unawakened minds, self-deceit of the awakened. (3) Another reason why to trust our own hearts is a note of folly is because they flatter us. Self-flattery imposes upon us with the conceit of our own excellence.
II. If this be so, if we be our own deceivers, what securities shall we take against our own hearts? Out of many we can now take only two. (1) The greatest security against deceiving ourselves by trusting our own hearts is a careful information of conscience. A knowledge of sin in itself would interpret to us the true moral character of our own conduct and all its intricate parts of thought, word, and deed. Another benefit of this early information of conscience is that we should be preserved from the stunning and deadening insensibility which early sins bring upon us. No words too strong can be found to urge on parents and guides of children to begin the information of the conscience as early as the information of the reason. (2) The other security is the only one which remains to those who have never enjoyed the first, and that is to take the judgment of some other person instead of trusting in themselves. We advise others better than ourselves; so would they us again. How little do we lay to heart who he is that would fain stop our ears against all advisers. And the man who takes counsel of nobody is his easy prey.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 92.
References: Proverbs 29:15.—New Manual of Sunday-school Addresses. p. 164. Proverbs 29:1.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 359; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 84; J. Keble, Sermons for Saints' Days, p. 174. Proverbs 29:1-11.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. iii., p. 285. Proverbs 29:12-18.—Ibid., p. 297. Proverbs 29:15.—Outline Sermons to Children, p. 77.
For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof: but by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged.
A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food.
They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.
Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things.
Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.
Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father.
He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.
He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.
Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession.
The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.
When righteous men do rejoice, there is great glory: but when the wicked rise, a man is hidden.
He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.
Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.
As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.
The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days.
A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him.
Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once.
He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.
A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.
To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress.
He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.
He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue.
Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, It is no transgression; the same is the companion of a destroyer.
He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat.
He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.
He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.
When the wicked rise, men hide themselves: but when they perish, the righteous increase.