Of the fear which is the outcome of the greatest love.
Whoever then has been established in this perfect love is sure to mount by a higher stage to that still more sublime fear belonging to love, which is the outcome of no dread of punishment or greed of reward, but of the greatest love; whereby a son fears with earnest affection a most indulgent father, or a brother fears his brother, a friend his friend, or a wife her husband, while there is no dread of his blows or reproaches, but only of a slight injury to his love, and while in every word as well as act there is ever care taken by anxious affection lest the warmth of his love should cool in the very slightest degree towards the object of it. And one of the prophets has finely described the grandeur of this fear, saying: “Wisdom and knowledge are the riches of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure.” 1730 He could not describe with greater clearness the worth and value of that fear than by saying that the riches of our salvation, which consist in true wisdom and knowledge of God, can only be preserved by the fear of the Lord. To this fear then not sinners but saints are invited by the prophetic word where the Psalmist says: “O fear the Lord, all ye His Saints: for they that fear Him lack nothing.” 1731 For where a man fears the Lord with this fear it is certain that nothing is lacking to his perfection. For it was clearly of that other penal fear that the Apostle John said that “He who feareth is not made perfect in love, for fear hath punishment.” 1732 There is then a great difference between this fear, to which nothing is lacking, which is the treasure of wisdom and knowledge, and that imperfect fear which is called “the beginning of wisdom,” 1733 and which has in it punishment and so is expelled from the hearts of those who are perfect by the incoming of the fulness of love. For “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear.” 1734 And in truth if the beginning of wisdom consists in fear, what will its perfection be except in the love of Christ which, as it contains in it the fear which belongs to perfect love, is called not the beginning but the treasure of wisdom and knowledge? And therefore there is a twofold stage of fear. The one for beginners, i.e., for those who are still subject to the yoke and to servile terror; of which we read: “And the servant shall fear his Lord;” 1735 and in the gospel: “I no longer call you servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth;” and therefore “the servant,” He tells us, “abideth not in the house for ever, but the Son abideth for ever.” 1736 For He is instructing us to pass on from that penal fear to the fullest freedom of love, and the confidence of the friends and sons of God. Finally the blessed Apostle, who had by the power of the Lords love already passed through the servile stage of fear, scorns lower things and declares that he has been enriched with good things by the Lord, “for God hath not given us” he says “a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 1737 Those also who are inflamed with a perfect love of their heavenly Father, and whom the Divine adoption has already made sons instead of servants, he addresses in these words: “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” 1738 It is of this fear too, that the prophet spoke when he would describe that sevenfold spirit, which according to the mystery of the Incarnation, full surely descended on the God man: 1739 “And there shall rest upon Him the Spirit of the Lord: the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and of true godliness,” and in the last place he adds as something special these words: “And the Spirit of the fear of the Lord shall fill Him.” 1740 Where we must in the first place notice carefully that he does not say “and there shall rest upon Him the Spirit of fear,” as he said in the earlier cases, but he says “there shall fill Him the Spirit of the fear of the Lord.” For such is the greatness of its richness that when once it has seized on a man by its power, it takes possession not of a portion but of his whole mind. And not without good reason. For as it is closely joined to that love which “never faileth,” it not only fills the man, but takes a lasting and inseparable p. 422 and continual possession of him in whom it has begun, and is not lessened by any allurements of temporal joy or delights, as is sometimes the case with that fear which is cast out. This then is the fear belonging to perfection, with which we are told that the God-man, 1741 who came not only to redeem mankind, but also to give us a pattern of perfection and example of goodness, was filled. For the true Son of God “who did no sin neither was guile found in His mouth,” 1742 could not feel that servile fear of punishment.
Is. xxxiii. 6.421:1731
1 John iv. 18.421:1733
1 John iv. 18.421:1735
Mal. i. 6 (LXX.).421:1736
S. John 15:15, John 8:35.421:1737
2 Tim. i. 7.421:1738
Rom. viii. 15.421:1739
Homo Dominicus. See the note on Against Nestorius, V. v.421:1740
Isa. 11:2, 3.422:1741
1 Pet. ii. 22.