"There is no fear in love; but perfect love castethout fear; because fear hath torment."— I John 4:18.
BETTER expressed could have been the thought of the text by saying, "There is no dread in love." We do not dread that which we love. In one sense, however, the more we love, the more we fear. We would not be so careful about pleasing a person whom we do not thus love. This is not the kind of fear, however, that the Apostle wishes us to cast out. On the contrary, it should be much enhanced. Consequently, the word dread would more accurately express the thought of our text.
The Scriptures speak of some who have "no fear of God before their eyes." (Rom. 3:18.) Evidently these are unregenerate. Often, among men, there is a thoughtlessness in respect to God and the future. The Apostle in this text does not intimate that all hearts have fear; but that if any heart has fear, perfect love will cast it out. As the knowledge and love increase, the fear diminishes. We may say that those of the world who have a reverential fear are such as are in a preferable attitude of mind; they are in better condition than the thoughtless. In life, certain conditions which surround us call for reverence; and man's brain is so constituted that reverence will be a part of his mental attitude if he be not depraved. Hence, the Scriptures say that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Prov. 9:10.) The fear of the Lord, the reverence of the Lord, will bring a blessing. This fear of the Lord rather increases as the child of God comes to know His Maker; but it is a gradual process.
There is a certain kind of fear which comes as the result of imperfect knowledge. We do not credit the Adversary with producing all the evil thoughts of the human mind, yet we believe he has very much to do with the evil influences which surround our race. People may be without fear of God; and we think that even after they have come to the Lord, and are learning to reverence Him and to know something about Him, they may lack the right kind of fear. Then the Adversary's plan will be to plant dread in their minds.
So we find with all heathen peoples. As soon as they have any knowledge of God, the Adversary seems to conjure up slavish fear which crowds out love, and produces dread. We read that "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not." (2 Cor. 4:4.) We think that this evil influence is accountable for many of the things which seem so remarkable to us. It explains the fact that the heathen have devilish doctrines mingled with dread of God; and that all the worldly who have knowledge of God, both Jews and Christians, have fear also — dread. Yet Christians have much greater light upon God's character than have others, and so should have correspondingly less fear than the heathen.
A CERTAIN KIND OF FEAR PROPER
Evidently our text is not intended to signify that a Christian should have no sense of fear. This fact is shown by the experience of the first Christian, our Lord Himself, in the Garden of Gethsemane. He there feared, as the Apostle tells us in speaking of this occasion, and He was heard in that He feared. He offered up strong cryings and tears to Him who was able to save Him out of death. (Heb. 5:7.) If the Master feared, so should His followers. The Apostle says, "Let us, therefore, fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." (Heb. 4:1.) How shall we harmonize these fears with our text. The text is, evidently, not intended to contradict the great lessons otherwise taught. Our Lord Jesus appealed to the Father who, He knew, loved Him; but He knew also, that the Father was absolutely perfect, righteous, just; and he feared lest He might have come short in fulfilling some of the requirements.
So with us. Let us know that "God is love" (I John 4:8), but let us fear respecting ourselves, and have such a carefulness, such a desire to please God, that we should feel fearful lest in any degree we should come short. Ignorance begets fear; but love for God will enable us to cast out that fear, and will also enable us to come to God with great confidence. So let us "Draw nigh unto God" (James 4:8) with full confidence that He will bless us. This thought is the very opposite to that in the heathen mind. Their conception of a god is that of a demon. The Christian, on the other hand, who is walking in the footsteps of the Master, learns to love his God and to wish to do the Father's will only. Nothing is acceptable in the nature of a sacrifice that is not prompted by that love. "The Father seeketh such to worship Him as worship Him in spirit and in truth."—John 4:23, 24.
FACE TO FACE WITH TROUBLE
"You are face to face with trouble, And the skies are murk and gray; You hardly know which way to turn, You are almost dazed, you say. And at night you wake to wonder What the next day's news will bring; Your pillow is brushed by phantom care With a grim and ghastly wing.
"You are face to face with trouble; A child has gone astray; A ship is wrecked on the bitter sea; There's a note you cannot pay; Your brave right hand is feeble; Your sight is growing blind; Perhaps a friend is cold and stern, Who was ever warm and kind.
"You are face to face with trouble; No wonder you cannot sleep; But stay, and think of the promise, The Lord will safely keep, And lead you out of the thicket, And into the pasture land; You have only to walk straight onward, Holding the dear Lord's hand.
"You are face to face with trouble; And did you forget to look, As the good old father taught you, For help to the dear old Book? You have heard the Tempter whisper, And you've had no heart to pray, And God has dropped from your scheme of life, For—oh, many a weary day!
"Then face to face with trouble; It is thus He calls you back From the land of dearth and famine To the land that has no lack. You would not hear in the sunshine; You hear in the midnight gloom. Behold, His tapers kindle Like stars in the quiet room.
"Oh! face to face with trouble, Friend, I have often stood, To learn that pain has sweetness, To know that God is good. Arise and meet the daylight; Be strong and do your best! With an honest heart, and a childlike faith That God will do the rest."