Holy Fortitude Or Remedies Against Fear - Part I
Adapted from a Sermon By
Stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13 ESV
This morning we will consider the words of 1 Corinthians Chapter 16 verse 13 in a sermon adapted from one of our faithful guides of the past, Isaac Watts.
In the first ages of Christianity, the professors of the gospel had great need of divine courage, that they might stand the many shocks of opposition, reproach, and violence. The Corinthian heathens, though they were a polite and learned people, yet they were blind and obstinate in their own superstitions and idolatry, and rooted in the profane and vicious customs of their ancestors. It required a great deal of holy fortitude, strength and firmness of mind, resolute endurance, to profess and practise a new religion among them, that ran counter to all their former opinions, and their manners. Therefore the Apostle Paul, who planted the gospel in that city, calls upon his converts to shake off cowardice and fear, to stand firm and unmoved in the profession of their faith, to behave like men of war, like heroes, in the practice of Christianity, and to exert all their strength of soul in this glorious work. Stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
It is true, as yet, we do not live in a totally heathen country, among lewd and barbarous superstitions: The land where our lot is cast, has a Christian history, and until recently openly professed the religion of Jesus; but clearly infidelity is sweeping across the land in this age, the gospel of Christ has plenty of ridicule thrown upon it, by many of those who even go under the name of Christians, and we are more and more called to put on courage for the defence of this gospel.
But besides this, there are many things occurring in the divine life, that require us to put on this holy fortitude of soul. The very nature of men is so corrupt and vicious, their hearts are so averse to the holy precepts of Christianity, the multitude of sinners is so exceeding great in every nation, even where the gospel is professed, the customs of this world are so contrary to the rules of the gospel, and the malice and rage of Satan with his evil angels, are so constant and so violent against the religion and the name of Christ, that it is true at all times, as well as in the primitive age, that all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted; 2 Tim. 3. 12, When we become soldiers of Christ, and earnestly resolve to be religious, we have to count on meeting with enemies and oppositions, we must be prepared to endure suffering; 2 Tim. 2. 3.
Our business therefore is, to seek for a spirit of power and holy fortitude, that is, holy strength and firmness of mind, that we may not be fearful in the profession of our faith, and in the practice of our daily duties. Not the Corinthians only, but we also, must be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, and be strong. If we are frightened at the sound of every reproach, or terrified by the fierce opposition of a wicked world, we will be in danger of turning back from the paths of Christianity, and of losing the heavenly prize. Such doctrines and such practices as the gospel teaches, require the professors of them to be bold and valiant.
And besides the difficulties we will meet with from a degenerate and sinful world, there are many other trials that accompany the Christian life. Sorrows and sufferings belong to human nature, in this fallen and unhappy state: Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward; Job. 5. 7. This earth is designed for a stage of conflict, a scene of probation, where each of us must act our parts, under the eye and notice of God our supreme Governor, and our final Rewarder. He expects that we should put on a sacred hardiness of soul; he requires that we should not indulge a spirit of fear, but be armed with power and courage, that we may endure to the end. And blessed be his name that he has given us promises to raise our hope, that as he endued his people in ancient times with his grace, so he will bestow this spirit of holy fortitude upon us also, and that as our day is, so our strength shall be.
The method of our approach to this subject will be as follows:
First, This divine temper of mind will be briefly described. In the next place,
Secondly, The various occasions which we shall find for the exercise of it will be represented.
Thirdly, We will consider a few motives to incite us to acquire this holy fortitude, and to maintain it throughout our whole course of life. And,
Fourthly, some remedies against a spirit of slavish fear, which is directly opposite to this Christian virtue will be proposed.
The first thing proposed is, to describe what is meant by fortitude and courage; and to this end, we must distinguish it into that of the active and that of the passive kind.
Active valor or courage, is such a temper of soul, as to attempt and venture upon any bold act of duty, which may endanger our present ease, and worldly interest; and prompts us to pursue it with an appropriate steadiness and bravery of mind, undaunted at every opposition we meet with, and un-terrified at all the threatening dangers that stand in our way.
Passive valor is such an habitual firmness and constancy of soul, as enables us to bear what sufferings we fall under, without repinings and inward vexations, and without any outward signs of sinking or despondency. When we sustain heavy sorrows, or anguish of the flesh, without any wild and unreasonable groanings of nature, without rage and unbecoming resentment, without tumult and confusion of spirit. And this should be the temper of our souls, and our Christian conduct, whether the sufferings which we feel, arise from the immediate hand of God, or from the injustice and violence of men.
In the second place, consider the various occasions that we will find in the Christian life, for the exercise of this holy courage, and that under both kinds of it; that is to say, the active and the passive, or that which consists in doing, and that which consists in suffering; and we will look into each of them in a practical way. Active valor is necessary for a professor of the Christian faith: And when and wheresoever divine providence gives us any just occasions for the exercise of this sort of fortitude, let no Christian refuse them, or shamefully withdraw from his duty. The occasions we have for it are such as these:
I. When we are called to profess and practise strict piety, even under the special view and notice of profane sinners. Perhaps we live among the openly profane, who live without God in the world; but we must not be afraid to own, that we fear the great God, and that we worship that awful name, which their blasphemies affront and vilify.
Nor must we be ashamed to let the world know, that we cannot pass a day without calling upon our God, and that prayer is as necessary to us, as our daily food. It is strange and monstrous that it should ever be accounted a matter of shame among creatures to acknowledge the God that made them, or that it should ever need any courage to profess homage and adoration to our Creator! What degenerate times do we live in, that it should require some courage to tell the world, that we who are creatures confess a God! And yet sometimes even this very courage is lacking, and we are contented to look like atheists, lest we should be thought religious. Base cowardice! and degenerate times indeed!
II. When we happen into the company of infidels and apostates from Christianity, who openly mock or ridicule the gospel of Christ, we may see a plain call of providence to stand up for his name and honour.
It is true, there are few who are called to travel overseas, and to engage in necessary conversation about religion with heathens; but infidelity is a growing disease of the present age, even in our own land. It is a spreading infection, and how far the great God may allow it to spread, he only knows.
There are multitudes already that have made shipwreck of the faith of Christ, and put their hopes only in the dim and glimmering light of nature, as a sufficient refuge for their souls, and their only guide in matters of religion: A poor doubtful guide, and a dangerous refuge! And yet these men are continually instructing one another to wage war against the blessed gospel, and rise in defiance against the only Saviour.
It is proper then for us to ask ourselves, are we ready to declare ourselves Christians if we are called to it, when deists and scoffers surround us with their abominable speech, or their malicious objections? For though sometimes they argue against our faith with calmness and decency, yet it must be confessed that those are the most common weapons which this sort of men make use of.
Dare we now make a profession of our faith among men of infidelity, and pay no attention their mocking, and their insolent reproaches? Let us remember that Christian courage must encounter mockery and slanders as well as other terrors: Courage must guard us against sinful shame, as well as against sinful fear.
Can we glory in a crucified Saviour as the wisdom and the power of God, if we should be placed between the Jews on one side, and the heathens on the other, who load this doctrine with folly and scandal. The apostle Paul was a brave example; Would that every soul of us could as bravely imitate him! But let us move on to some more occasions of courage similar in nature.
Perhaps we content ourselves to be Christians in our homes, and to frequent the public assemblies of worship without shame or fear, because our neighbours do the same: But I would ask of such general professors of Christianity, Why are you so backward to give up your names to Christ, and attend on the special ordinance of his holy supper? Is it not because you are ashamed to appear in such a strict profession of godliness, and to be known and observed by the world, as those that have devoted themselves to the Lord in his church? This is certainly the case of some younger converts. Let them here be reminded of their former neglects, and their present duty. Be strong in the Lord, banish a shameful shame, and seal your covenant in the blood of Christ. His cross is your hope, and why should you not make it your glory too.
If you are ashamed of such a public profession in peaceful times, what will you do if days of trial should come? Would you be ready to publish your separation from the church of Rome, and all its superstitions? Would you have courage enough to maintain the purity of your profession, and your close adherence to Scripture, in opposition to all the inventions and traditions of men? Would your heart be strong to persist in your peculiar practices of religion, in the most scriptural forms of it, in an hour of persecution and danger?
Blessed be God for the freedom of religions we now enjoy and perhaps not for long. But a true Christian should be so built up, and so equipped, as to be ready to profess and practise his religion in every nation, and in every age, in the midst of storms as well as under the shining sun.
III. When we are called to practise an unfashionable virtue, or to refuse compliance with any fashionable vice. This is another occasion that demands the exercise of Christian fortitude. Let us survey a few instances of this kind.
It is an unfashionable thing now-a-days to introduce a word of practical godliness into common gatherings: The polite world will tell us, it spoils conversation: Mark what a silence is spread over the room, when any person dares to begin so disagreeable a subject; there is none to second him, he may preach alone, and it is well if he escapes a profane rebuke. This is a very true, but a very shameful account of things, according to the present state of things.
Anything but religion is thought fit to entertain a friend. Even where persons of piety meet together in their visits, this sort of language is banished from company and the parlour, and it is confined only to God and the closet. Sadly! we are ashamed to appear truly religious; but if we had holy courage enough, one person would not be afraid to begin, nor another to carry on, such divine discourse. There are surely some happy moments wherein an useful word may be introduced with prudence and decency, to warm each other’s hearts, and to rekindle the holy fire of love and devotion that is almost expiring.
Again, perhaps we may be much engaged in the world among people that make no conscience of speaking truth: But if we would be Christians indeed, we must have courage enough always to show a hatred of all falsehood, and every form of deceit, and keep up a tenderness of spirit, lest we be drawn to the borders of a lie; nor must we be ashamed to let the world know that we are the devoted servants of truth.
When some dishonest or unjust practice has overspread a city or a country, and become almost universal, we must dare to be honest in a cheating world; we must maintain our righteousness, and let it shine in the midst of a deceitful age, though perhaps we may be called scrupulous fools. If we happen to be engaged in necessary business with persons who drink to excess, we must boldly deny the imposed glass, we must secure our own sobriety, even in the midst of drunkards, and as much as possible avoid their society: Nor should any scandalous names of puritan and precisian affright us from the paths of strict holiness.
When we meet with gross injustices in the world, we may be made the scorn and jest of all the company, if we decline the prevailing customs of retribution and bloody revenge; we may be charged with cowardice, among the violent of the age; but a man of honour must have courage to put up with this charge, unless he will risk to run against the sword of God which is drawn and pointed against all forms of revenge.
When the fashion of dress or visits, of salutations or entertainments, exceeds the bounds of modesty or temperance, or infringes upon truth or religion, we must bravely dare to be unfashionable, and have no fellowship with any unfruitful works of darkness; Eph. 5. 11. We must obey the great and holy God, rather than comply with the sinful customs of men.
It must be granted that true religion does not consist in eccentricity, but there are some seasons when we must be eccentric, if we would be holy, and exert a sacred fortitude of soul, to secure ourselves from the defilements of the world. ‘Go out from their midst,’ is the language of God in such cases, ‘be separate from them and touch no unclean thing.’ 2 Cor. 6. 17.
IV. Another instance of necessary courage, is, when we are called to undertake the cause of the oppressed, to plead for the poor against the mighty, or to vindicate the innocent against the men of slander or violence. It is a cowardly spirit, a spirit of shameful pride, or selfish meanness, to trample upon those that are lying on the ground, to tread upon the poor and the distressed, and sometimes through fear of the mighty, as well as scorn of the poor, to neglect the cries of those that are injured. This indeed is the custom of the world; but if we are the disciples of Christ, we must have more courage than this, we must open our mouths for the mute, and plead the cause of those that cannot speak for themselves; Prov. 31. 8
When we happen into company that delight in scandal, and the slander goes round from tongue to tongue, we must first guard our lips from the infamous compliance, though we cannot defend our ears: And then we should have some compassion on the absent person, who perhaps may be loaded with slander and lies: Nor should we be afraid or ashamed to put in a relieving word; to support the good name of those that are oppressed by malicious reproaches. And if the censure be never so just, yet where providence does not plainly call us to join in that censure, let us not betray such an inclination to evil-speaking, nor show such a base and mean soul, as to participate for the sake of fitting in.
Where the life or the belongings of our neighbour are in danger, we must venture something to secure them, as well as to defend his good name. This advice is given in Prov. 24. 11, 12. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? That is, if there are any persons drawn out to death, and ready to be harmed by sinful oppression, and that you have a just and reasonable power in your hand to preserve them, it is not your duty to stand still or hide yourself, and say, behold, I did not know this. He that lets the ox or the donkey of his neighbour go astray, or sink under a burden, and passes away regardless as though he did not know it, is under the censure of the word of God; and much more do we deserve the censure, if we abandon our fellow-creatures of human nature to perish, when we are able to save them. The all-wise and almighty God considers it, and he will not approve of such meanness of spirit, and such a shameful defect of Christian charity.
V. It is a work which calls for courage to admonish our brethren when they depart from the ways of righteousness, and to reprove sin among those with whom we converse. The law of God requires it; Lev. 19. 17. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. It is expressed as though a neglect of reproof, where it is a duty, looks like a sort of hatred, or lack of love. But for the most part it is lack of courage that is the cause. Let it be done with holy boldness; but without anger and resentment, or selfish revenge; let it be expressed and managed with all love and gentleness, with all humility and compassion, and with a graceful exercise of those lovely characters of moderation and meekness, which have elsewhere been described.
Nathan the prophet skillfully reproved David the king for his adultery and murder. And we should learn the most artful and amiable methods, and the softest language of reproof, that we may practise it with more courage, security, and success; and the more secret it is, it will generally be most successful. If at any time we are called by most evident providence, to give an open rebuke in the face of the world, together with courage, we must put on all wisdom and humility, lest we publish our own conceit and pride, and provoke wrath without hope of success. When we rebuke the openly profane and impious, for the most glaring iniquity, we should be very careful to find the proper occasion, lest we cast a pearl before swine, and it become useless, and be trodden underfoot; Matt. 7. 6.
Sometimes it is hard to know what is our duty in this respect, but thus far in general it may be said, This should be done whenever there is a great and evident probability of doing service to God and souls by it: Whenever a vindication of the name of God and his honour requires it, or when there is any just hope of doing good to men; there is indeed a time to keep silence in this case, and there is a time to speak. May the word, and Spirit, and providence of God join together to give us direction in this difficult duty, and courage to perform it!
VI. Reformation of all kinds, whether in families or churches, in cities, or nations, demands a good degree of resolution and courage. It is a brave and daring enterprise, to restrain the torrent of the age we live in, and to attempt to change the vicious customs of a city or nation. We must have a soul inspired with zeal for piety and goodness, if we would contest the point with the guilty, and cover them with deserved shame, or bring them to deserved punishment. May God equip and raise up many to undertake this glorious work!
We need courage to stand up for truth and purity in the church of Christ, when it is overrun with corrupt doctrines, wicked heresies, superstitions, and false worship. We must use our endeavour to root out these evil weeds by all the sacred influences of reason and scripture; not by rage and violence, not by fraud and falsehood, not by slander and scandalous language; Christ has not allowed his followers such weapons as these against superstition and heresy: The sword of the Spirit is the word of God; Eph. 6. 17. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal; 2 Cor. 10. 4
And when we have endeavoured to reform the offenders by all Christian methods, and find no success, we must dare to separate ourselves from the many and the mighty, who will not be reformed. This was the glorious practice of our fathers, the protestants and the puritans, in the several phases of their reformation, when they were called to oppose the greater or the lesser corruptions of the Christian church.
If our relatives or families have fallen into any foolish, vain, or sinful practices, or any civil society to which we belong has departed from the rules of justice or truth, it belongs to a Christian to become a public good, by using his influence, as far as it goes, toward the correcting of every disorder. He should put on a divine fortitude, whenever providence calls him to attempt a reformation amongst them. There is need of a noble spirit and a pious bravery, to rise up against any foolish or vicious customs, to combat any rooted principles or habits of error or iniquity, and to oppose any number of persons that are engaged in an evil scheme. Moses forbids us to fall in with the many to do evil; Exod. 23. 2. And there are times when we may be called to oppose a multitude of evildoers: And though no one stands by us, yet we are bound to stand by the cause of God and goodness. So divine a cause deserves and demands such divine courage.
How glorious was the character of Caleb and Joshua, who spoke well of the land of promise, and encouraged the armies of Israel, while all the rest of the spies which were sent brought an evil report on the good land; Num. 13. 31, 32. The people believed the evil report, and spoke of stoning Joshua and Caleb: But the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle, and God himself gave a testimony from heaven to the sacred courage and honour of these Jewish heroes. What a brave spirit dwelt in Elijah, who attempted to reform Israel from idolatry! He would not fall down and worship Baal, though he thought he had been left alone, the only worshipper of the true God in the nation; 1 Kings 19. 14.
VII. There are some other, and very common occasions for the exercise of sacred courage, which apply to people, especially in the lower ranks of life: As for instance; when a worker is called by providence to speak the truth, and yet he dare not do it without offending his employer: When a poor man is required to bear witness in some important concern, and his rich neighbour frowns and looks with contempt upon him: When a person of an inferior character is tempted to join with the mighty in some unjust and dishonourable practice, and while his superiors invite him to it, his conscience forbids his compliance. It is a noble act of Christian courage, in such instances as these, to follow truth, equity, and conscience, wherever they lead, in opposition to all the allurements, the frowns, and the threatenings of persons in higher positions. Let those who fall under such a temptation remember, there is One higher than the highest, and the great God, the Lord of heaven and earth, is the defender of truth and righteousness, the guardian of innocence, and the dreadful avenger of deceit and lying.
Other similar instances in common life may be added, in which Christian fortitude is greatly necessary, especially in this corrupt and degenerate age: As when a businessman must look poverty in the face, and meet approaching ruin in his outward circumstances, unless he compromises his honesty, and practise falsehood and deceit. But if the case be thus, if a Christian sees himself sinking in the world, by the frowns of providence, he must dare to sink rather than cheat his neighbour, and save himself by any base and dishonest methods. A man of religion and honour must stand firm to his word, must follow strict equity in all things, and neither enter into any methods of fraud, nor of violence, to retrieve his decaying circumstances.
O how many little dishonest contrivances do persons often practise to secure a good bargain to themselves, and sometimes they support their dying credit in the world at the expense and loss of their innocent neighbour! They borrow what they know they are not able to pay: They draw up false accounts of their own estate: They impose upon the credulous with words of a double meaning, or with downright lies: They almost forget they are Christians, for fear lest they should be undone, and practise the things at which a heathen would have hesitated and blushed, because they do not have courage enough to be honest and poor.
VIII. Christians have need of holy fortitude, to venture their lives at the demand of providence, and expose themselves to violence, and to a bloody death. Sometimes they are called to this glorious service in the cause of God and his church: So were many of the prophets, the apostles, and early Christians, as well as the martyrs of later ages. Sometimes in the cause of our country, divine providence calls us to expose our blood, and to assist or guard the nation against invasions from abroad, or tumults at home, and to quell the rage of a brutal multitude. In a just and necessary war for our country, or in defence of our natural or religious rights, we may fight with Christian courage, when we have well surveyed the justice of our cause, and find it approved of God. And there are times when we may be called to venture our lives for our Christian brethren; 1 John 3. 16.
But perhaps some of these things may come as naturally also under the head of passive valor and courage: And indeed the most active valor of the greatest heroes is built upon that which is passive. It is on this account they dare venture to expose their flesh to wounds, their names to reproach, or their bodies to death, because they can bear the wounds, the reproaches, or death itself with a noble serenity and fortitude of soul. All the active boldness in the world is but rashness and folly where such a hardiness and patience are utterly lacking. Of this passive valor let us consider but two particular cases in which Christians must exert themselves.
I. When we are called to bear sickness, pain, shame, losses, disappointments, all the sorrowful changes of life, or death itself from the mere hand of God. This is to be done with a steadiness of spirit, with a firmness of soul, with Christian fortitude, with a sacred and serene calm upon all our powers and passions, without fretting or vexing, or inward restlessness. It is a sign of a weak mind to be thrown onto confusion with every blast of wind. If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small; Prov. 24. 10. We must not indeed regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him; Heb. 12. 5.
Let the men of this world that do not know Christ, that are not acquainted with the gospel, and have not felt the powers of the world to come, let them fret and grow irritable at every disappointment that falls upon them in their earthly comforts, or when their health is affected: But it does not suit a Christian to be sour and fretful under the afflicting hand of God, for it is the hand of his heavenly Father.
To be overwhelmed and almost distracted with the crosses we meet with in the world, does not befit the character of a child of God, one that is high born, that has his birth from heaven, and his family there; it is a shame for him to grow wild with impatience, or to run to desperate means to obtain relief. This is not courage, but mere cowardice of soul to put an end to our own life in order to escape from our sorrows. The wisest among the heathens reproved it as a meanness of spirit; and surely it is much more unbecoming the religion of Christ, and that divine fortitude that every Christian should be endued with.
We are not to be affrighted, though the mountains should be turned upside down, and cast into the midst of the sea: The Lord of hosts is our shield and defence, he is a rock above all the waves, and if our feet are fixed upon this rock, what place is there for terror? The name of the God of Jacob, in the 46th Psalm, is a match for all our foes, and a sovereign remedy for all our fears.
Christian courage appears also on a bed of sickness, when at the call of God, we look death in the face with a cheerful soul. When all our friends stand around us, and every one, by the lamentable air that sits in their faces, gives us notice of our approaching dissolution, then to look upon death with a serene countenance, and not be affrighted, but venture boldly into the invisible world; this is a glorious fortitude derived from the grace of faith.
II. Another instance of passive valor is, when we bear persecutions of all sorts from the hand of men with a holy courage, for the sake of God. When we can be plundered of our possessions in this world, and stripped of all our comforts, and yet be easy. You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, says the apostle to the Hebrews; chapter 10. verses 32, 34. and you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, knowing that you yourselves have a better possession and an abiding one. In Hebrews 11. verse 36. when the apostle speaks of the ancient Jewish saints, Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated: but they were men above this world, of whom the world was not worthy: They had a spirit of divine courage that made them too great for this world, although they were almost banished out of it, and wandered among the beasts of the earth.
Let not Christians then be guilty of base and mean compliances, to preserve their belongings in the world, nor to cover their names from slanders and infamy, nor to secure their liberties or their lives when Christ calls us to part with them. Whatever is honorable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things. If there is any call to the practice of such courage, for the sake of Christ, remember these exhortations, and do not be afraid.
And so we have considered a variety of instances both of active and passive valor, as they are to be exercised in the Christian life: It is to be feared that they are too many for the best and boldest of us to practise, even at our best. But in order to make them a little easier to Christians, some motives and directions may be helpful under the influence of the blessed Holy Spirit. And these will be the subject of the second part of this sermon.
In closing may we be brought to solemnly speak to ourselves in words such as these:
And now, O my soul, it is time to turn your thoughts inward, and consider how much of this discourse is suited to your own case? You acknowledge there is a God, but are you not sometimes ashamed to call upon him in the morning for his presence all the day, lest your companions should know you have been on your knees? Do you have the courage to ask a blessing on your food in the place where others deride the practice?
You have learned and you have believed the religion of Christ, but have you ever yet had courage enough to make a solemn and public profession of it? Have you ever yet publicly given your name up to Christ as one of his subjects, and joined yourself to his visible kingdom amongst men? Or are you only a believer in secret, ashamed to make profession of your faith, by joining yourself to some Christian assembly? If this be your state, you have now a loud call to add resolution to your faith, and assume Christian courage to profess the sacred name in which you have believed.
Or are you a professor of this holy religion? You have listed yourself under the banner of Christ, in these days of liberty and peace, and while you dwell among those who encourage your faith and profession. But ask yourself, have you such a love for the gospel, as to glory in it even amongst infidels, who make it the object of their mockery and reproach? Has this divine religion so deep a root in your heart, as to bear and resist the storms of the world, and to stand firm and flourish still? Have you courage to declare yourself a disciple of the cross, and a professor of a crucified Saviour, when you will happen to be in the company of those who blaspheme him?
Have you obtained holy boldness enough to practise virtue when it is out of fashion, and can you refuse to comply with the most alluring temptations to a fashionable sin? Have you got such a victory over yourself as to dare to stand out, if your friends would lead you into any fashionable vice? This is a hard lesson to young and tender minds, but it must be learned, O my soul, if you will be a Christian indeed. Have you courage to vindicate the innocent, when he is assaulted with slanders, and to frown upon those who delight in scandal? Or are you so meanly spirited, as to join in a common mokery, that is thrown upon the absent, and to mix with the odious tribe of back-biters? Remember this is a shameful baseness of spirit; but a Christian must be a man of honour.
Can you see your friends, your companions, indulge in a sinful practice, and have you not one kind admonition for them? Have you not virtue and courage enough to warn your brother, and to turn his foot from the path of iniquity, that leads to ruin and death? But remember also, that your rebuke most come with gentleness, if you ever hope that they should be successful. A reprover should have a bold, but a gracious spirit. What zeal have you, O my soul, for reformation? Or can you bear with immoralities and corruptions of every kind? And rather than risk to displease man, will you let your neighbours go on for ever to displease God? What would you do, if you were called to face the great, and to profess religion before the mighty men of the earth? Is your faith grown bold enough to show itself in a court, in a boardroom, and to venture all your earthly interests for the defence of it?
Thus far concerning your active courage. But how does it stand with regard to passive valor, and enduring of sufferings? Is your heart firm under sharp trials of providence? Can you resign your health and your ease into the hand of God without fretting or complaining? Or does your courage faint, and your impatience shamefully show itself under the common pains and diseases of nature? Granted, there is much of weakness derived even to a courageous spirit, from the weaknesses of the flesh: When the nerves are stressed, and the frame of the body tottering, the soul shares in the infirmities of this poor weak body. What a frail unhappy state of human nature, and souls that dwell in clay! But is it your constant labour and prayer, that patience may have its perfect work, that your spirit may be ever calm under all the pains and worries of this mortal flesh, and your temper kept serene under all the frowns and clouds of heaven?
Are you ready to face death, the king of terrors, and to descend into that dark valley? You must meet this adversary in a very short time, O my soul! Labour therefore daily to get courage and victory over death, by faith in a dying and a rising Saviour. Happy is that faith that has no carnal fear attached to it, but has risen above the frowns and smiles of this world. My soul longs after it, and reaches at it, as something within the power of her present status through the grace of Christ. I long to be armed with this sacred courage, and to have my heart strengthened all round with these divine munitions. I would gladly be calm and serene in the midst of buffetings and reproaches, and pursue my course steadily toward heaven, under the banner of faith, through all the arrows of slander and malice.
May this be in our thoughts and this be our desire:
Lord Jesus, I wait for your divine influence, to bestow this grace, and your divine teachings, to put me in the way to obtain it.