The Foolishness of Fearing Death

Oh! if we did but verily believe that the promise of this glory is the word of God, and that God doth truly mean as he speaks, and is fully resolved to make it good; if we did verily believe that there is, indeed, such blessedness prepared for believers as the Scripture mentioneth, surely we should be as impatient of living as we are now fearful of dying, and should think every day a year till our last day should come. [footnote citing Cyprian: “Let him fear to die, who being not born again… Let him fear to die, who is not judged to be Christ’s in his cross and passion…”]  …

Is it possible that we can truly believe that death will remove us from misery to such glory, and yet be loath to die? If it were the doubts of our interest which made us afraid, yet a true belief of the certainty and excellency of this rest would make us restless till our interest be cleared.

If a man that is desperately sick today, did believe he should arise sound the next morning; or a man today, in despicable poverty, had assurance that he should tomorrow arise a prince; would they be afraid to go to bed, or rather think it the longest day of their lives, till that desired night and morning came? The truth is, though there is much faith and Christianity in our mouths, yet there is much infidelity and paganism in our hearts, which is the main cause that we are so loath to die.

—Richard Baxter
Works, 23:193.


Unhealthy Fear

We must shape not in our fancies such troubles as are never likely to fall out. It comes either from weakness or guiltiness, to fear shadows. We shall not need to make crosses; they will, as we say of foul weather, come before they be sent for. How many evils do people fear, from which they have no further hurt than what is bred only by their causeless fears! Nor yet, if they be probable, must we think of them so as to be altogether so affected, as if undoubtedly they would come, for so we give certain strength to an uncertain cross, and usurp upon God, by anticipating that which may never come to pass. It was rashness in David to say, “I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul” (1 Sam 27:1).

—Richard Sibbes
Adapted from The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, 1:163.

Excerpts Poems

Fear Not Amid Dangers

THIS world’s a forest, where, from day to day,
Bears, wolves, and lions, range and seek their prey;
Amidst them all poor harmless lambs are fed,
And by their very dens in safety led.
They roar upon us, but are held in chains;
Our shepherd is their keeper, he maintains
Our lot. Why then should we so trembling stand?
We meet them, true, but in their keeper’s hand.
He that to raging seas such bounds hath put,
The mouths of rav’nous beasts can also shut.
Sleep in the woods, poor lambs, yourselves repose
Upon his care, whose eyes do never close.
If unbelief in you don’t lose their chain,
Fear not their struggling, that’s but all in vain.
If God can check the waves by smallest sand,
A twined thread may hold these in his hand.
Shun ṣin, keep close to Christ; for other evils
You need not fear, tho’ compass’d round with devils.

—John Flavel
The Whole Works of the Reverend John Flavel, 5:255.

Quotes Special Observances

Superstitious Fear

Superstitious fear opposes the fear of God

There is a superstitious fear in reference to casual things some are transported with every trifling contingency; if the salt falls towards them, or if a hare crosseth them in the way, presently they grow pale or red upon it, as if there were some evil that must ensue; this is the quintessence of folly.

—William Bates
Adapted from The Whole Works of the Rev. William Bates, 226-228.

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