Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Tuning From The Bass
by [?]

I am about to say a good word for Fear. Fear is a fine thing, a very fine thing; and the world would be a poor place without it. Fear was one of our firmest but gentlest nurses. Terror was one of our sternest but kindest teachers. A very wise man once said that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. He might have left out the august and holy Name, and still have stated a tremendous fact; for fear is always the beginning of wisdom.

‘No fears, no grace!’ said James, in the second part of the Pilgrim’s Progress, and Mr. Greatheart seemed of pretty much the same opinion. They were discussing poor Mr. Fearing.

‘Mr. Fearing,’ said Greatheart, ‘was one that played upon the bass. Some say that the bass is the ground of music. The first string that the musician touches is the bass, when he intends to put all in tune. God also plays upon this string first, when He sets the soul in tune for Himself. Only here was the imperfection of Mr. Fearing: he could play upon no other music but this, till towards his latter end.’

Here, then, we have the principle stated as well as it is possible to state it. You must tune from the bass, for the bass is the basis of music. But you must rise from the bass, as a building must rise from its foundations, or the music will be a moan and a monotone. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; but the wisdom that gets no farther is like music that rumbles and reverberates in one everlasting bass.

But the finest exposition of the inestimable value of fear is not by John Bunyan. It is by Jack London. White Fang is the greatest story of the inner life of an animal that has ever been contributed to our literature. And Jack London, who seems to have got into the very soul of a wolf, shows us how the wonderful character of White Fang was moulded and fashioned by fear. First there was the mere physical fear of Pain; the dread of hurting his tender little nose as the tiny grey cub explored the dark recesses of the lair; the horror of his mother’s paw that smote him down whenever he approached the mouth of the cave; and, later on, the fear of the steep bank, learned by a terrible fall; the fear of the yielding water, learned by attempting to walk upon it; and the fear of the ptarmigan’s beak and the weasel’s teeth, learned by robbing their respective nests.

And following on the physical fear of Pain came the reverential fear of Power. ‘His mother represented Power,’ Jack London says, ‘and as he grew older he felt this power in the sharper admonition of her paw, while the reproving nudge of her nose gave place to the slash of her fangs. For this he respected his mother.’ And afterwards, when he came upon the Red Indians, and saw men for the first time, a still greater fear possessed him. Here were creatures who made the very sticks and stones obey them! They seemed to him as gods, and he felt that he must worship and serve them. And, later still, when he saw white men living, not in wigwams, but in great palaces of stone, he trembled as he had never trembled before. These were superior gods; and, as everybody knows, White Fang passed from fearing them to knowing them, and from knowing them to loving them. And at last he became their fond, devoted slave. It is true that fear was to White Fang only the beginning of wisdom; but that is precisely what Solomon says. Afterwards the brave old wolf learned fearlessness; but the early lessons taught by fear were still of priceless value, for to courage they added caution; and courage wedded to caution is irresistible.