Early and provident fear is the mother of safety; because in that state of things the mind is firm and collected, and the judgment unembarrassed. But when the fear and the evil feared come on together, and press at once upon us, deliberation itself is ruinous, which saves upon all other occasions; because, when perils are instant, it delays decision; the man is in a flutter, and in a hurry, and his judgment is gone.
Edmund Burke: Speech on the Petition of the Unitarians, 1792.
There is a courageous wisdom: there is also a false, reptile prudence, the result, not of caution, but of fear. Under misfortunes, it often happens that the nerves of the understanding are so relaxed, the pressing peril of the hour so completely confounds all the faculties, that no future danger can be properly provided for, can be justly estimated, can be so much as fully seen. The eye of the mind is dazzled and vanquished. An abject distrust of ourselves, an extravagant admiration of the enemy, present us with no hope but in a compromise with his pride by a submission to his will. This short plan of policy is the only counsel which will obtain a hearing. We plunge into a dark gulf with all the rash precipitation of fear. The nature of courage is, without a question, to be conversant with danger; but in the palpable night of their terrors, men under consternation suppose, not that it is the danger which by a sure instinct calls out the courage to resist it, but that it is the courage which produces the danger. They therefore seek for a refuge in the fears themselves, and consider a temporizing meanness as the only source of safety.
As our fear excludeth not that boldness which becometh saints, so if our familiarity with God do not savour of fear, it draweth too near that irreverent confidence wherewith true humility can never stand.
There is a virtuous fear, which is the effect of faith; and there is a vicious fear, which is the product of doubt. The former leads to hope, as relying on God, in whom we believe; the latter inclines to despair, as not relying on God, in whom we do not believe. Persons of the one character fear to lose God; persons of the other character fear to find him.