The Fear of Man
George Everard, 1885
"The fear of man brings a snare; but whoever puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe." Proverbs 29:25
The fear of man is a deadly foe to a godly, consistent life. It stops many a one on the very threshold of the kingdom. It turns back many a one who seemed to run well. It mars the usefulness and stays the progress of many true servants of the Lord.
We are told by Solomon here that "The fear of man brings a snare," yes, and a hundred snares it sets for the feet of unwary pilgrims.
On this account even Abraham more than once was guilty of deceit in the matter of Sarah, and Isaac failed in the very same way. Most probably through fear of offending his young companions, Rehoboam lost the best part of his kingdom. Through fear of Jezebel, Elijah fled into the wilderness. Through fear of a maid-servant, Peter denied the Lord whom he loved, and for fear of the soldiers, the rest of the disciples forsook Christ in His hour of sorest need. Through fear of the Jews, Pilate gave up Christ to be scourged and to be crucified, though he knew Him to be innocent. And the same evil is ever at work in the Church. In India at the present day, thousands are convinced of the truth of Christianity who yet for this reason dare not confess themselves on the Lord's side.
Let me particularly point out two evils that directly spring from this source, and that perhaps are found nowhere more clearly at work than in a Public School.
The fear of man often leads to downright positive sin. Take a lad who is easily led any way by those about him. He may have been well brought up, and would naturally shrink from vile sins which some others glory in. But he is so linked with young companions, that he dare not go against them. So it often comes to pass that a moral, well-intentioned youth falls into the most grievous evil. He may practice deceit and lying; he may join in schemes that bring trouble and suffering on those far better than himself; he may waste time that is worth more to him than gold and silver; he may lose his character for honesty; he may act a part so cruel and hard-hearted that in God's sight he may be no better than a murderer. This, and much of a like kind, may arise from this noxious root of man's fear.
It is this which often keeps a lad from confessing at once a fault that he has committed. In this way a fault of a comparatively trifling character becomes the parent of innumerable petty artifices and of a long course of equivocation and double-dealing. Through fear of a slight punishment or reproof, a lad cloaks and hides the evil until his character is permanently injured by it.
The fear of man keeps back many a lad from decision for Christ. Conscience has been touched; the voice of the Good Shepherd has been heard within; to be a true Christian, is seen to be the only safe and happy course. It may be this is the case after a sickness or great sorrow, or when he has come in the way of some earnest and faithful preacher of the truth.
Thus he is more than half inclined to cast in his lot with the people of God, and to come out boldly on the Lord's side. But this stumbling-block crosses his path. He has an elder brother or a school companion who may hold him up to ridicule if he is too particular. So he will not take up his cross. He is afraid to be found on his knees or with an open Bible. He hides his religion for a season; then, when his former impressions have died away, he gives it up altogether, and is much further from the kingdom of God than he was before.
Is this the case with any one who reads these pages? Are you kept back from a decided course, by the thought of another? Are you afraid of confessing Christ, of standing up for truth and righteousness, of a faithful word in reproof of sin?
But why should you be?
A bold and consistent Christian course will soon secure you the respect of those whose good opinion is worth having. If others laugh or scorn, let them do so. The worst they can do, will not really harm you. Think of the words of Christ. In warning you not to fear your fellow-sinners, see how He puts Himself before you as the One who will be sure to befriend you. "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!" (Luke 12:4, 5).