October 19: Curing Our Sinful Fears

Today, I would like to present you with a short portion of one of John Flavel’s discourses, A Practical Treatise of Fear. We will focus on the sixth chapter of that work, where Flavel prescribes the rules to cure our sinful fears, and to prevent the sad and woeful effects of those fears. This is a synopsis of that sixth chapter, which runs thirty-one pages in length. Obviously an overview like this does not allow the author to build his arguments and to drive home his applications. For that, we urge you to read the full work at your leisure. [the link is to volume 3 of Flavel’s Works, and chapter six of this discourse begins on page 280.]


Rule 1. The first rule to relieve us against our slavish fears, Is seriously to consider, and more thoroughly to study the covenant of grace, within the blessed clasp and bond whereof all believers are.

Rule 2. Work upon your hearts the consideration of the many mischiefs and miseries men draw upon themselves and others, both in this world and that to come, by their own sinful fears.

Rule 3. He that will overcome his fears of sufferings, must foresee and provide before-hand for them.

Rule 4. If ever you will subdue your own slavish fears, commit yourselves, and all that is yours into the hands of God by faith.

Rule 5. If ever you will get rid of your fears and distractions, get your affections mortified to the world, and to the inordinate and immoderate love of every enjoyment in the world.

Rule 6. Eye the encouraging examples of those that have trod the path of sufferings before you, and strive to imitate such worthy patterns.

Rule 7. If ever you will get above the power of your own fears in a suffering day make hast to clear your interest in Christ, and your pardon in his blood before that evil day come.

Rule 8. Let him that designs to free himself of distracting fears, be careful to maintain the purity of his conscience, and integrity of his ways, in the whole course of his conversation in this world. 

Rule 9. Carefully record the experiences of God’s care over you, and faithfulness to you in all your past dangers and distresses, and apply them to the cure of your present fears and despondencies.

Rule 10. You can never free yourself from sinful fears, till you thoroughly believe and consider Christ’s providential kingdom over all the creatures and affairs in this lower world.

Rule 11. Subject your carnal reasonings to faith, and keep your thoughts more under the government of faith, if ever you expect a composed and quiet heart in distracting evil times. 

Rule 12. To conclude, exalt the fear of God in your hearts, and let it gain the ascendant over all your other fears.


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