The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
HE who feareth not, showeth that he hath not aught to lose. The holy fear of God orders, rules and directs the soul, and maketh it to come into grace. If any man possesseth any grace or Divine virtue, holy fear is that which preserves it. And whosoever hath not yet obtained virtue or grace, holy fear maketh him obtain it. The holy fear of God is a guide which guideth us to the Divine graces, in that it maketh the soul wherein it dwells to speedily attain to holy virtue and to the Divine graces. All creatures which ever fell into sin, would never have fallen if they had possessed the holy fear of God. But this holy gift of fear is not given save only to the perfect, because as a
man is more perfect so is he more fearful and humble. Blessed is that man who knoweth himself to be in a prison in this world, and who alway remembereth how grievously he hath offended his Lord! Much ought man to fear pride, lest it give him a push and cause him to fall from the state of grace in which he is, for a man may never be safe when he is among our enemies; and our enemies are the allurements of this miserable world, and our own flesh, the which, together with the fiends, is ever an enemy of the soul. Greater fear doth it behove a man to have lest his own wickedness should conquer and deceive him, than of any other enemy of his. A thing impossible is it that man can mount up and ascend to any grace or Divine virtue, or persevere therein, without holy fear. He who hath not the fear of God goeth in peril of death and much more of being utterly lost. The fear of God maketh a man to obey with humility, and causeth him to bow his head beneath the yoke of obedience; and the greater fear a man hath the more fervently doth he pray; no little gift is that of prayer to him unto whom it is given. The virtuous actions of men, however great they seem to me, are not accounted or rewarded according to our judgment, but according to the judgment and good pleasure of God; for God regards not the quantity of the work done, but the greatness of the love and humility of the doer: and therefore the safest part for us is always to love and fear with humbleness, and never to trust in ourselves for any good, ever suspecting those thoughts which are born in the mind under the appearance of good.