“It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread. Isaiah 8:13
“And even if the demons have any power in these matters (events of history), they have only that power which the secret decree of the Almighty allots to them, in order that we may not, set too great store by earthly prosperity, seeing it is oftentimes vouchsafed even to wicked men like Marius; and that we may not, on the other hand, regard it as evil, since we see that many good and pious worshipers of the one true God are, in spite of the demons, pre-eminently successful; and, finally, that we may not suppose that these unclean spirits are either to be propitiated or feared for the sake of earthly blessings or calamities; for as wicked men on earth cannot do all they would, so neither can these demons, but only in so far as they are permitted by the decree of Him whose judgments are fully comprehensible, justly reprehensible by none.”
The City Of God — pg. 66
In Seminary I was taught that the Devil was God’s devil on a leash. This is exactly what Augustine is articulating here. We have no need to fear that which either wicked men or wicked spirits can do to us, who are God’s people, for whatever comes to us needs come to us through the hands of our loving benevolent Father whose every action towards us is one of Fatherly compassion and tender mercy.
Second, note Augustine intimates that we would do well to be careful in judging our estate or the estate of others by circumstances. Providential ordering that looks to be good on the surface happens to wicked people and providential ordering that looks to be good on the surface happens to God’s elect. We can not look at a persons prosperous circumstances alone and adjudicate a person’s standing with God.
Third, Augustine reminds us that we should not be consumed with concern regarding demonic beings he obviously holds to exist. It is somewhat refreshing to read of Augustine’s conviction that Demons exist. The Church in the West today is so caught up in the Scientific nature of Modernity that we forget that their is a very real spiritual realm that doesn’t answer to the cold scientific calculations of Modernity.
Still, despite his conviction that Demons exist, Augustine reminds us that Demons are not to be propitiated (appeased) or feared. Men ought to only fear God. If men will fear God and move in terms of His Law-Word, resting in His favor, what need is there to be consumed by either evil men or evil spirits?
Fear of anything or any one in the created realm is an act of Worship and so a violation of the 1st commandment. When we fear anything or any one but God we are guilty of having a god before God that will be able to, because of our fear, command our allegiance and control our behavior. Such command and control is the essence of worship. Such fear of wicked men or demons is a sin that needs to be repented of. It is a sin I repent of constantly.
As God’s Holy elect we need daily to pray that God would grant us the grace to only fear Him. As frail and weak humans we are prone to allow our fears to push God out of our reckoning and so to not venture out in obedience to Him. Men that cannot overcome their fears are men that are compromised before they begin.
Almighty Excellent and Sovereign God we pray that thou would make us a people who fear only you. Grant us grace to understand that there is a Spiritual realm that is very active but at the same time grant us grace to remember that thou art the absolute ruler and commander over this Spiritual realm. Teach us we pray thee to take delight in reality of thy Sovereign decrees that rules over the affairs of men. Remind us that thou art a God who is favorably disposed towards us at all times, for the sake of thy and our Redeemer — the Lord Christ. And being confident of your favor aid us to not fear any lesser being.
In Christ’s name