Happy is the man that feareth always: - Proverbs 28:14 by Charles Bridges

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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior

I hope you will read through to the end. It gets better and better. The Scriptures in the footnotes are important.
My biggest take-a-way was that the fear of God is no small part of our assurance of faith.

Proverbs 28:14 Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.

This Proverb fitly follows the last. Confession precedes, godly fear follows, the reception of mercy, as the end for which it is given,
[4] and the proof of its reception. It implies no uncertainty of our safety; but, by guarding us against fresh wounds of conscience, it more firmly maintains our confidence. We may believe and rejoice in the Lord as “our Sun;” and yet we would fear him alway as “a consuming fire.”[5] And this fear is our security.[6]

We may here profitably glance at some Christian paradoxes. How is happiness to be found in constant fear? Is fear to be the atmosphere or the spirit of a child of God? The “fear which hath torment is cast out by love.” For where “love makes perfect,” there can be no unquiet rollings or doublings of heart.[7] But godly fear preserves the sunshine, and seals our special acceptance.[8] We walk with our Father in holy watchfulness and peace. Again—We readily receive of the happiness of trust.[9] How do we link with it the happiness of fear? So far from being contrary to faith, it is a component part of it, or at least its inseparable adjunct;[10] the discipline, that preserves it from presumption. Faith without fear is self-confidence and self-delusion. Nay—the assurance of our “standing by faith” is balanced by an instant and most needful exercise of fear.[11] Who grasped a more triumphant confidence than Paul? Yet, without presuming upon a long and consistent profession, self-distrust, watchfulness and diligence established his confidence.[12] ‘If there is truth in his assurance, not sin itself can disappoint him, it is true. But it is no less true, that if he do not fear to sin, there is no truth in his assurance.’[13] Instead of being afraid to mix faith and fear, dread their separation. Again—the righteous is bold as a lion;[14] yet he feareth alway. But Christian courage, though opposed to slavish, forms the very essence of godly, fear. The three confessors, bold before the Babylonish autocrat, yet so feared to offend against God, that “the burning fiery furnace” was the better alternative in their eyes.[1]

Thus is holy fear every way identified with happiness. It is a fear of reverence, not of bondage; of caution, not of distrust; of diligence, not of despondency. In proportion as we are raised above tormenting fear, we cherish a deep reverence of the majesty and holiness of God, a child-like fear of displeasure, a jealousy over our motives, desires, and the risings of our evil propensities, and an abhorrence and shrinking, not only from sin, but from the temptations and occasions of sin. Well does the Christian know the value of this conservative principle—as far removed from legality, as from presumption. One, whose mournful experience gives additional weight to his words, warns us, as “sojourners” in a world of evil, and with hearts so often betraying our steps, to “pass our time in fear.”
[2] If we be surely, we are “scarcely, saved.”[3] Though there be no uncertainty, in the end, there is appalling difficulty in the way—“Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.”[4] The man who stands in his own security, requires the caution more than any. Suspect a snake in every path—a snare in every creature. “Feed with fear.”[5] “Rejoice with trembling.” Yea, “work out your whole salvation with fear and trembling.”[6] Live in constant dread of yourself.

This godly fear proves self-knowledge, preserves from self-confidence, produces self-distrust. In wariness against a fall we are most likely to stand. If weakness be our frailty, the consciousness of it is our strength. “When I am weak, then am I strong.”

The importance of this principle will be seen by the contrast with its opposite. Fear keeps the heart tender, and the soul safe. Security and presumption harden the sinner, and he falls into mischief. Pharaoh’s hardness of heart and its consequence, were but the bravery and ruin of the devil.
[8] When David’s self-indulgence and carelessness had swept away his tenderness, fearfully did he fall into mischief.[9] The latter history of his wise son reads the same awful warning.[10] Peter’s fearlessness—though the fruit of ignorance, rather than of willfulness—brought him to the very brink of destruction.[11]

A deep sensibility of sin is a special mercy. To think what it is—what it may be—that—indulged only in thought—if the Lord restrain not—it will end in apostasy—Oh! dare we trifle with it? The man, who presumes upon it, as too harmless for eternal punishment, and promises himself peace in the way of his own heart—a voice from heaven could scarcely describe the tremendous horrors of his case! Every word of God is a thunderbolt levelled at him.
[12] Scarcely less pitiable is the man, who makes light of his eternal state; living without prayer; so much better in his own eyes than his more ungodly neighbors; and fully satisfied with a mere external preparation for eternity. Forget not—Christian Professor—we may be strong in confidence, only because we are sleeping in delusion, or hardened in insensibility. ‘From’ all the mischief of self-ignorance and ‘hardness of heart, Good Lord, deliver us!’

4 Ps. 130:4.
5 Ps. 84:11, with Heb. 12:28, 29.
6 Hab. 3:16.
7 1 John 4:18.
8 Isa. 66:2.
9 Pro. 16:20.
10 Heb. 11:7.
11 Rom. 11:20.
12 Rom. 8:33–39, with 1 Cor. 10:27.
13 Leighton on 1 Pet. 1:17. The Romanists—and how many Roman Protestants with them!—have no other idea of fear, than as excluding the certainty of acceptance; whereas its true influence is not fluctuation in doubt, but carefulness in preservation.
14 Pro. 28:1.
1 Dan. 3:16–18. Comp. Pro. 6:10, Gen. 39:9, Neh. 5:15.
2 1 Pet. 1:17.
3 1 Pet. 4:18.
4 1 Cor. 10:12
5 Contrast Jude 12.
6 Ps. 2:11, Phil. 2:12.
7 2 Cor. 12:9, 10.
8 Ex. 14:5–8, 23.
9 2 Sam. 11:2.
10 1 Kings 11:1–11.
11 Matt. 26:33–35, 41, 74.
12 Pro. 29:1, Deut. 29:19, 20.

Bridges, Charles. (1865). An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs (pp. 460–462). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
I’ve been reading Matthew Henry’s commentary and recently came across this piece in Psalm 147, which really resonated with me.

The Lord accepts and takes pleasure in those that fear him and that hope in his mercy. Observe, [1.] A holy fear of God and hope in God not only may consist, but must concur. In the same heart, at the same time, there must be both a reverence of his majesty and a complacency in his goodness, both a believing dread of his wrath and a believing expectation of his favour; not that we must hang in suspense between hope and fear, but we must act under the gracious influences of hope and fear. Our fear must save our hope from swelling into presumption, and our hope must save our fear from sinking into despair; thus must we take our work before us.

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
I’ve been reading Matthew Henry’s commentary and recently came across this piece in Psalm 147, which really resonated with me.

Very good. Thank's for sharing it. It indeed resonates with my hope and fear as well. If I did not have hope in the depths of my fear I would sink into great depths. If thou Lord shouldst mark iniquities who could stand. But, there is forgiveness with Thee that Thou mayest be feared.

This one word, "But" introduced David's discovery of forgiveness. Forgiveness is indeed a rare discovery among men. This is my favorite use of the word "but" in all of Scripture.


Puritan Board Freshman
Mr. Walsh,

Have you consider George Lawson commentary on Proverbs? What do you think of it?

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