The Puritan preacher John Bunyan may be best known for his classic work The Pilgrim’s Progress, the world-famous allegory of the Christian life. Perhaps lesser known, but also significant for its value to the Christian faith, is his work titled A Treatise on the Fear of God.
Published the year after The Pilgrim’s Progress, this book unpacks the often misunderstood and neglected doctrine of the fear of the Lord. In his treatise, Bunyan systematically dissects this teaching, helping believers understand the inherent connection between such fear and the Christian faith. In fact, Bunyan considered this fear our highest duty as children of God: “I call it the highest duty, because it is, as I may call it, not only a duty in itself, but, as it were, the salt that seasoneth every duty. For there is no duty performed by us that can by any means be accepted of God, if it be not seasoned with godly fear.”
He begins the book with describing why we are to fear the Lord. He describes God in His glory, majesty, goodness, and holiness. He shows us that He is wholly other and One whose name is Fear. As we encounter God in all His wonder and splendor, as we understand His character and attributes, we can only respond with reverence and awe. “The goodness as well as the greatness of God doth beget in the heart of his elect an awful reverence of his majesty.”
There is a great difference between the fear God’s children have for Him and the fear of those who are outside Christ. Those who are not God’s children by faith fear Him for His wrath and judgment; the elect fear God for His goodness to them in Christ. They fear Him for who He is and all He has done. They fear Him because they know Him and are known by Him. Bunyan makes this distinction clear, reminding us that our godly fear of the Lord is a grace given to us by God Himself through the work of the Spirit within us.
One key section of the treatise contains a detailed list of privileges that come to those to fear the Lord. This is a beautiful list, one that all believers should relish and treasure, for it contains promises found in God’s Word. Here are five of those privileges.