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Wilhemus A'Brakel on fearing man

When you fear only God you don't fear man:

The third sin committed [by those who don't fear God only] is to fear man — a sin to which the godly are still vulnerable. If we have not yet fully denied ourselves in regard to honor, love, advantage, and pleasure, nor are much inclined to acknowledge the insignificance of man (that is, that man can neither stir nor move, can do neither good nor evil to us), and we have not accustomed ourselves to see the hand of the Lord in all things, thus perceiving that God alone does everything, and that all men are but instruments in His hand, being used either to do good or evil unto us—this will engender a looking unto man. In time of war we consider the multitude and courage of the soldiers and we stand upon our sword (Eze 33:26). “Who shall come down against us? or who shall enter into our habitations?” (Jer 21:13). If, however, we perceive that the might of the enemy supersedes ours, we are fearful and the heart is moved “as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind” (Isa 7:2). We fear man when in sickness, legal cases, business transactions, in the plying of our trade, in pursuing our desire which must be attained to by the instrumentality of men, etc.; we look to men and, in our thoughts end in them—as if it had to come from them. We vehemently seek to have them on our side, and we are fearful of losing their favor. In our association with men we fear the one for his wisdom (which is no match for ours), the other for his status and imposing personality, the third for his wickedness, and the fourth for his benevolence which we would not like to lose. Now if such a person has no desire for godliness and would become angry if you were to manifest the image of God and perform your duty, and if, out of fear for him, you were to hold back and accommodate him in the commission of sin, behold, then the fear of God is rendered inferior and must yield. There God is on the one side, and man on the other side. There the fear of God is on the one hand and the fear of man on the other hand. If, however, the fear of man motivates us to do something which is contrary to the fear of God, then we reject the fear of God because of the fear of man.

This is a dreadful sin, for first of all God has forbidden it. “Fear not them which kill the body” (Mat 10:28); “Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die?” (Isa 51:12). Secondly, it is the greatest act of contempt toward God if He must yield to man for you. It is idolatry and a sin of the heathen. “Who...worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator” (Rom 1:25). Thirdly, it is a denial of the providence of God—as if God did not reign; as if the creature could function independently. Fourthly, it affects and troubles you continually. Fifthly, it causes you to fall from one sin into the next, and you ought therefore to be ashamed of your previous fear of man. Be warned and give heed to the exhortation of the Lord: “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” (Isa 2:22). Follow David in his noble courage. “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psa 118:6).

—Taken from: The Christian's Reasonable Service by Wilhemus A'Brakel


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