Two Fears

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St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) discusses two kinds of fear in Tractate 43 of his Lectures on the Gospel of St. John.

He begins by citing these texts: “There is no fear in love but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 Jn 4:18), and “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever” (Ps 19:9). The juxtaposition of these passages raises the question: “How does perfect love cast out fear, if the fear of the Lord, which is clean, endureth for ever?” (5)

To answer this, St. Augustine distinguishes two kinds of fear: “There is a servile fear, and there is a clean [chaste] fear: there is the fear of suffering punishment, there is another fear of losing righteousness.”

Comparing the two, he says: “That fear of suffering punishment is slavish. What great thing is it to fear punishment? The vilest slave and the cruelest robber do so…

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