Chapter 13 – The Fear of Faith

“By faith, Noah moved with godly fear prepared an ark.” Heb. 11: 7.

There are many who suppose that, when the word of God says, “Blessed is the man that feareth always,” it is commending a disposition that is at variance with the rest and assurance that are given by faith. And they thus regard this unbelief as a sort of virtue: they fear this great and holy God, and they fear their own weakness and unfaithfulness, and they dare not believe. This view is altogether out of harmony with the word of God; for the word teaches us that fear and confidence must go hand in hand with each other. “Many shall see it and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.” (Ps. 40: 3). “Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord.” (Ps. 115: 11). “Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy.” (Ps. 33: 18). Fear and confidence go in union: the one increases the other.

Very clearly is this truth set before us in the history of Noah. “By faith Noah, being warned of God concerning things not seen as yet, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark.” The fear was partly the fruit of his faith, and partly a motive to make his faith active in the building of the ark. He believed the announcement of the avenging flood, and feared; feared in view of the destruction that was to overtake his fellow-men, and in view of the holy God from whom the judgment was to proceed. He feared, and therefore he cleaved in strong faith to the promise of the ark, and worked at it as the only means of preservation. Fear and trust were with him inseparable, the one indispensable to the other.

Anxious soul, you fear the Lord, you fear His holiness and His judgments, and you say that it is out of veneration for Him that you do not dare to believe. You say that you are too unworthy in the presence of such a holy and dreadful God to appropriate the right of being called His child, and of speaking to Him with confidence. O that you knew how grievously you are mistaken. There is nothing that so much tends to arouse in the Lord the sense of dishonor and anger as unbelief — not believing His word, that He has compassion on all the unworthy. There is nothing on which God so much sets His honor as His free grace and His pity for the ungodly. You wound Him in the most tender point when you doubt if His grace is indeed for you, and so drag its greatness and trustworthiness into doubt. O souls, when you fear the Lord, pray, fear to dishonor Him by unbelief.

But, no: you say that it is not the Lord, but yourselves that you doubt. You fear on account of your unfaithfulness, your insincerity. And do you not then understand that it is just this fear of yourselves that is the strongest argument for your casting yourselves upon the Lord and entrusting yourselves to Him. O soul, pray, seek no longer something in yourselves; for, if you wait until you no longer fear for yourselves, you will never come to Christ at all. God never asks you for an engagement to be faithful on which He can rely. No: He gives you a promise of faithfulness on which you can rely. And just because you fear your own unfaithfulness, you must place your confidence on God’s faithfulness. Herein just lies the glory of free grace, that the sinner, who cannot trust himself, who feels that in everything — in faith, in humility, in earnestness, in sincerity — he comes far short, may yet surrender himself to the Lord as one who is utterly wretched, with confidence in the word that He certainly receives, and will keep such an one. Yea: it is he who fears on his own account that must trust in the Lord. This is the only remedy. He has nothing on which he can hope but the promise of God’s compassion. Every thought of fear must be a new motive to confidence. So shall he learn to fear no more, according to the word of the psalmist: “Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord: his heart is established, he shall not be afraid.” (Ps. 112: 1, 8). He shall also learn to experience that the fear of the Lord then becomes through confidence the source, not of anxiety but of peace and growing power, according to that other word: “The Church, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, was multiplied.” (Acts 9: 31).