(Summary of the first two chapters)
CHAPTER ONE: What the fear of man is, and the several kinds of it
- Negatively: What it is not (for purposes of this treatise)
- “That natural bashfulness, whereby a man is apt to be dashed out of countenance in the doing or speaking any thing before those with whom he is not acquainted.”
- “That natural wariness, whereby a man, seeing one stronger than himself, or whom he believes to be an overmatch for him, is not forward to strive with him.”
- He is not referring to our common concerns with what another may do to or with us: “nor indeed any thing else, which in human affairs is called fear of man.”
- This fear shows itself “in things relating to God.”
- Respecting unbelievers: “a notorious vice and abominable fruit of unbelief in the unregenerate”.
- It shows itself in: being kept from God in conversion and the subsequent work of God.
- They thus “conform to this world” – with all that entails in denying Christ.
- In the regenerate “who strive against it, and by faith, which is the victory that overcometh the world, at last entirely triumph over it.”
- QUALITY OF THIS FEAR
- In both regenerate and unregenerate, it “admits of certain degrees”.
- “God often makes his own servants and dearest children (as in other cases, so especially in this) sensible that they are but men.”
- Examples, Gen. 3:7-11; 1 Cor. 2:3
- God will also provide comfort to those who are his. Acts 18:9-10.
- Fear of man in the regenerate will be in conflict with the operation of faith. Accordingly, the regenerate must be sanctified even in this area.
- “The outward distinction of men makes no difference in the thing itself; for even kings, princes, and great men of the world, are no less subject to the enslaving fear of man, than those of a far lower and meaner condition.”
- The greater have more to lose.
- It is worse for a teacher to be afflicted with fear of man, because the teacher may then fail in his duty.
In a word, this fear of man, wheresoever it is found, is in itself a most heinous vice, and a kind of idolatry, arising from the spawn of an unbelieving heart, whereby we lay aside the fear of God from before our eyes, and think, speak, or do any evil, or leave thinking, speaking, or doing that which is good, for any consideration or regard of men; it being our duty simply to follow the word of God, and to eye the same as our rule and directory in all that we do or leave undone.
Chapter II: Of the sources and causes of the fear of man
The causes thereof are either internal or external.
- The internal are chiefly these:
- Unbelief, which is the spring and root of all vices.
- The love of the world, and of the things of the world, namely, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
- The want of true self-denial, which is always joined with the love of the world; or, when we fear lest men should prejudice us in our reputation, estates, ease, or in our bodies and life itself, if we should simply follow the guidance of the word of God.
- Fleshly wisdom derived from corrupt reason, which uses to measure divine things by its own standard.
- The false imagination we have of ourselves, and the prejudice settled in the mind, and making men believe they may be acceptable to God, though they should yield in several cases merely out of regard to man, without any leave from God’s word to do so.
- False humility, which is swayed more by human authority than by the word of God; and prompts us to refer all things to the judgments of others, who, as we pretend, understand them better than ourselves.
- The great deceitfulness of our own hearts, which can put so fair a colour upon all manner of sins, that we persuade ourselves we act very prudently, whilst we are influenced all this while by nothing but unbelief and fear of man.
- The desire or hope to be advanced to some place of honour in the world.
- The want of experience in the ways of God, which makes us hesitate in difficult cases, and indisposes the soul to rely wholly upon God, fearing lest he should let us fail or miscarry in them. This proceeds from our not having sufficiently learned how dear they are to God, who entirely trust in him; and what powerful assistance he affords them, to accomplish his own work in them.
- Fear of presumption, lest we should seem to tempt God in casting ourselves wholly upon him.
- Secret pride, which prompts us eagerly to desire a happy end, and visible success in all our undertakings; whereas indeed we should rest satisfied with an inward success and victory; that is, in having kept a good conscience towards God.
- Natural shyness, for it cannot be denied that some are more inclined to fearfulness than others. And from this natural weakness springs bashfulness, whereby many are hindered from performing that with cheerfulness, which a well-grounded faith requires of them.
- Neglect of prayer, which not only prevents us from obtaining a full conquest over the fear of man, but drives us down further into the stream of hypocrisy.
- The external causes are these following:
- The tyranny of many in power, who take upon them to bind and fetter the consciences both of teachers and hearers, being only concerned to preserve thereby public peace and tranquillity.
- The forwardness of our universities in their dubbing of heretics: for they no sooner perceive any breakings forth of the spirit of true Christianity, but they are sure to cast a slur upon it, by giving it an ill name, and all this under a cloak of their great zeal for their highly valued orthodoxy.
- The conduct of those that enter into holy orders whilst they are unholy themselves, and, after a loose education in the universities, engage now in the sacred function, for no other end than only mere temporal support
- The high regard and esteem we have for men. This blinds many to such a degree, that they cannot imagine that such great men, so eminent for wisdom and learning, should be so grossly mistaken and drawn aside.
- The specious and plausible reasonings of such as follow their corrupt reason more than the word of God.
- The frequent examples of such as are bound down by the fear of man as well as themselves.
- Worldly riches, that cast frequent and manifold hinderances in our way, and prevent us from pressing forwards incessantly in the simplicity of faith.
- Wife and children, who by their importunate way of arguing, and their unbelieving tattle and clamour, do weary out and overcome many.
- The honour and esteem we have already gained in the world. This makes us very loath to make others think, that hitherto we have deceived the world, and been in an error ourselves. To which may be added, that when a man is placed in some high post, he finds it a hard lesson to give it up, and suffer reproach with the people of God.
- The threats of others, especially of those in power.
- The fair promises of the world, which offers great things, if we will but declare that odd is even.
- Great and honourable acquaintance and friends, who, under the pretence of hearty love and kindness, are always cautioning us not to venture too far.
- Too great and too intimate a familiarity with the children of this world. Hereby many deliver up their spiritual weapons, and so disable themselves from reproving what is amiss in others with courage and presence of mind.
- The neglect of frequent conversation with true believers, who walk in the power of faith, and rather choosing those for our companions who are themselves enslaved by the fear of man.