The Fear of God

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as one dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the first and the last and Living one.

— Revelation 1:17-18

God being a God who loves righteousness, a God who, that his creature might not die of ignorance, died as much as a God could die, and that is divinely more than man can die, to give him himself; such a God may well look fearful from afar to the creature who recognizes in himself no good that must be done; who fears only suffering, and has no aspiration—only wretched ambition! But in proportion as such a creature comes nearer, grows towards him in whose likeness he was begun; in proportion, that is, as the eternal right begins to disclose itself to him, that his individuality can be perfected only in the love of his neighbor, and that his being can find its end only in oneness with the source from which it came; in proportion as he nears the possibility of seeing these things, will his terror at the God of his life abate.

The fire of God, which is his essential being, his love, is a fire unlike its earthy symbol in this, that it is only at a distance it burns—that the farther from him, it burns the worse, and that when we turn and begin to approach him, the burning begins to change to comfort, which will grow to such bliss that the heart at length cries out with supreme gladness, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is no one upon earth that I desire besides thee!”