In 1709 Isaac Watts writes a two-part sermon on Christian courage. To illustrate the first section he writes a still popular hymn.
Where the life or the estate of our neighbour is in danger, we must venture something to secure it, as well as to defend his good name. This advice is given in Prov. xxiv. 11, 12, “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn out to death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider?” That is, if there are any persons drawn out to death, and ready to be slain by sinful oppression, and thou hast a just and reasonable power in thine hand to preserve them, it is not thy duty to stand still or hide thyself, and say, “Behold I knew it not.”
Holy fortitude, or remedies against fear.
l COR. xvi. 13.—Stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
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 large, stock of holy fortitude, to profess and practise a new religion among them, that ran counter to all their former opinions, and their manners. Therefore, St. 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 fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”
It is true we live not in a heathen country, among lewd and barbarous superstitions: the land where our lot is cast, is honoured with the Christian name, and professes the religion of Jesus; yet, let me tell you, infidelity is a growing temptation of this age; the gospel of Christ hath plentiful ridicule thrown upon it, by many of our neighbours that go under the name of Christians; and we may sometimes be called to put on courage for the, defence of the 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, is 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 ages), “that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution;” 2 Tim. iii. 12. When we become soldiers of Christ, and resolve to be religious in good earnest, we must reckon upon enemies and oppositions, we must be prepared to “endure hardness,” chap. ii. ver. 3.
Our business, therefore, is to seek for a spirit of power and holy fortitude, that we may be void of fear in the profession of our faith, and in the practice of our daily duties. Not the Corinthians only, but we also, must “watch and stand fast in the faith; we must quit ourselves like men, and be strong.” If we are affrighted at the sound of every reproach, or terrified by the fierce opposition of a wicked world, we shall 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 shall meet with from a degenerate and sinful world, there are many other trials that attend 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 upwards:” 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 hath given us promises to raise our hope, that as be 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.”
To cast my Discourse into some method, I shall,
First, briefly describe this divine temper of mind. In the next place, Secondly, I would represent the various occasions which we shall find for the exercise of it.
Thirdly, I shall mention a few motives to incite us to acquire this holy fortitude, and to maintain it throughout our whole course of life.
And, fourthly, propose some remedies against a spirit of slavish fear, which is directly opposite to this Christian virtue.
The first thing proposed is, to describe what I mean by holy fortitude and courage; and to this end, we must distinguish it into that of the active and that of the passive kind.
Active valour, or courage, is such a temper of soul, as enables us 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 a becoming steadiness and bravery of mind, undaunted at every opposition we meet with, and unterrified at all the threatening dangers that stand in our way.
Passive valour 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 tokens 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, I come to represent the various occasions that we shall find in the Christian life for the exercise of this holy courage, and that under both kinds of it; namely, the active, and the passive, or that which consists in doing, and that which consists in suffering; and I shall enlarge upon each of them in a practical way.
Active valour 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 may 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 our dwelling may be cast among profligate wretches, 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 ever should 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 fortitude to tell the world, that we who are creatures confess a God! And yet sometimes even this very fortitude is wanting, 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 throw their impious jests on the gospel of Christ, we may find a plain call of Providence to stand up for his name and honour.
It is true, there are few of us who are sent to travel beyond the seas, and to engage in necessary converse about religion with heathens: but I hinted before, that infidelity is a growing mischief of the present age, even in our own land. It seems to be a spreading infection, and how far the great God may suffer it to prevail, he only knows. There are multitudes already that “have made shipwreck of the faith of Christ,” and betake themselves only to the dim and glimmering light of nature, as a sufficient refuge for their souls, and their only guide in the 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 arms of defiance against the only Saviour: it is proper then for us to inquire, are we ready to declare ourselves Christians if we are called to it, when deists and scoffers surround us with their abominable jests, or their wanton cavils? For though sometimes they argue against our creed with calmness and decency, yet it must be confessed that those are not 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 not value their banter, 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 lead this doctrine with folly and scandal. St. Paul was a brave example. O, that every soul of us could as bravely imitate him! But let us proceed to some more occasions of courage akin to this.
Perhaps we content ourselves to be Christians in our closets, and to frequent the public assemblies of worship without shame or fear, because our neighbours do the same: but I would inquire 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 put in mind of their former neglects, and their present duty,—“Be strong in the Lord,” banish a sinful 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 vindicate 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 a Protestant king on the throne, and a glorious race of Protestant princes to succeed him. May the blessing of Heaven from above descend on them all, and render them in their successions an everlasting blessing to Great Britain, and all the Protestant churches! But a Christian indeed should be so formed, and so furnished, 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 company: 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 scoff. This is a very true, but a very shameful account of things, according to the present mode. Any thing 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. Alas! 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 persons 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 falsehood, 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 knavish 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 or Precisian affright us from the paths of strict holiness.
When we meet with gross affronts in the world, we may be made the scorn and jest of all the company, if we decline the modish customs of satisfaction and bloody revenge; we may be charged with cowardice among the ruffians of the age; but a man of honour must have courage to bear this charge, unless he will venture to run upon the sword of God, which is drawn and pointed against revenge, duelling, and murder.
When the fashion of dress or visits, of salutations or entertainments, exceeds the bounds of modesty or temperance, or intrenches upon truth or religion, we must bravely dare to be unfashionable, and have no “fellowship with any unfruitful works of darkness.” We must obey the great and holy God, rather than comply with the sinful customs of men.
“‘Tis brave to meet the world, stand fast among
Whole crowds, and not be carried with the throng.”
I grant that religion doth not consist in singularity; but there are some seasons when we must be singular, if we would be holy, and exert a sacred fortitude of soul, to secure ourselves from the defilements of the world. “Come out from among them,” is the language of God in such cases; “touch not the unclean thing, and be ye separate, saith the Lord;” 2 Cor. vi. 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 upon 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 be disciples of Christ, we must have more courage than this; we must “open our months for the dumb,” and plead the cause of those that cannot speak for themselves; Prov. xxxi. 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 calumny 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 doth 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 call names for company.
Where the life or the estate of our neighbour is in danger, we must venture something to secure it, as well as to defend his good name. This advice is given in Prov. xxiv. 11, 12, “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn out to death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider?” That is, if there are any persons drawn out to death, and ready to be slain by sinful oppression, and thou hast a just and reasonable power in thine hand to preserve them, it is not thy duty to stand still or hide thyself, and say, “Behold I knew it not.” He that lets the ox or the ass of his neighbour go astray, or sink under a burden, and passeth 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 courage and 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. xix. l7, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart; thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.” It is expressed as though a neglect of reproof, where it is a duty, looks like a sort of hatred, or want of love. But for the most part, it is want of courage forbids it. Let it be done with holy boldness; but without wrath and resentment, or selfish revenge; let it be expressed and managed with all love and gentleness, with all humility and compassion, and with a becoming exercise of those lovely characters of moderation and meekness which I have elsewhere described.
Nathan the prophet ingeniously reproved David the king for his adultery and murder. And we should learn the most artful and obliging method, 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 profane and impious wretch, for the most glaring iniquity, we should use our best prudence in distinguishing proper seasons, lest we “cast a pearl before swine, and it become useless, and be trodden under foot;” Matt. vii. 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 whensoever there is a great and evident probability of doing service to God and souls by it: whensoever 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. O 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 enterprize, to stem the torrent of the age we live in, and to attempt to change the vicious customs of a city or a 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. Blessed be God, there are societies formed in our age for this glorious purpose! May everlasting success attend their zeal, and may their heads be covered with Divine protection in every hour of danger!
We have need of 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, not by calling in the power of the magistrate and the sword of the state to assist us; Christ hath not allowed his followers such weapons as these against superstition and heresy: “the sword of the Spirit is the word of God;” Eph. vi. 17. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal;” 2 Cor. x. 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 seasons of their reformation, when they were called to oppose the greater or the lesser corruptions of the Christian church.
If our kindred or families are fallen into any foolish, vain, or sinful practices, or any civil society to which we belong hath 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 rectifying of every disorder. He should put on a divine fortitude, whensoever 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 course. Moses forbids us “to follow a multitude to do evil;” Exod. xxiii. 2. And there are seasons when we may be called to oppose a multitude of evil-doers: and though no man stand 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 who were sent “brought an evil report upon the good land!” Numb. xiii. 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 xix. 14.
VII. There are some other, and very common occasions for the exercise of sacred courage, which attend persons, especially in the lower ranks of life: as, for instance, when a servant is called by Providence to speak the truth, and yet he dare not do it without offending his master: when, a poor man is required to bear witness in some important concern, and his rich neighbour frowns and looks sour upon him: when a person of an inferior character is tempted to join with the mighty in some unjust and dishonourable practices, 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, Wheresoever they lead, in opposition to all the allurements, the frowns, and the threatenings of persons in an higher station. Let those who fall under such a temptation remember, there is an higher than the highest, and the great God, the Lord of heaven and earth, is the patron of truth and righteousness, the guardian of innocence, and the dreadful avenger of deceit and lying.
I might add other instances of a kindred nature in common life, wherein Christian fortitude is greatly necessary, especially in this corrupt and degenerate age: as when a trader must look poverty in the face, and meet approaching ruin in his outward circumstances, unless he makes some inroad upon 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 knavish contrivances do persons often practise to secure a good bargain to themselves, and some times 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 an heathen would have blushed and started, because they have not 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 primitive 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 so 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 seasons when we may be called to venture our lives for our Christian brethren; 1 John iii. 15.
But perhaps some of these things may come as naturally also under the head of passive valour, or courage: and indeed the most active valour 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 hardness and patience are utterly wanting.
Of this passive valour I shall mention but two particular cases wherein 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 disquietude. It is a sign of a weak-mind to be overset with every blast of wind. “If thou faintest in the day of adversity, thy strength is but small;” Prov. xxiv. 10. We must not indeed “despise the chastening of the Almighty, nor must we faint when we are rebuked of him;” Heb. xii. 5.
Let the men of this world, that know not Christ, that are not acquainted with the gospel, and have not felt the powers of the world to come, let them fret and grow peevish at every disappointment that falls upon them in their earthly comforts, or when their flesh is visited with sore pains: but it does not become 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, is not becoming 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 into desperate courses for 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 need have we 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 upon 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 valour is, when we bear persecutions of all sorts from the hands 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. “Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods,” says the apostle to the Hebrews, chap. x. 32, 34, “and ye endured a great fight of afflictions, with cheerfulness, knowing that in heaven ye have a better and more enduring substance.” In Heb. xi. 36, when the apostle speaks of the ancient Jewish saints, “they had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, of bonds and imprisonments; they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 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 substance 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: “If there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.” If there be any call to the practice of such courage, for the sake of Christ, remember these exhortations, and be not afraid.
Thus I have given you a variety of instances both of active and passive valour, as they are to be exercised in the Christian life: I fear they are too many for the best and boldest of us to practise, even under all our advantages. But in order to render them a little more easy to Christians, the following motives and directions may give some assistance under the influence of the blessed Spirit. And these shall be the subject of my next Discourse.
And now, O my soul, it is time to turn thy thoughts inward, and inquire, how much of this discourse is suited to thy own case? Thou acknowledgest there is a God, but art thou not sometimes ashamed to call upon him in the morning, for his presence all the day, lest thy companions should know thou hast been upon thy knees? Hast thou courage to ask a blessing on thy food, in a place where others deride the practice?
Thou hast learned, and thou hast believed the religion of Christ, but hast thou ever yet had courage enough to make a. solemn and public profession of it? Hast thou ever yet publicly given thy name up to Christ, as one of his subjects, and joined thyself to his visible kingdom amongst men! Or art thou only a believer in secret, ashamed to make profession of thy faith, by joining thyself to some Christian assembly? If this be thy state, thou hast now a loud call to add fortitude to thy faith, and assume Christian courage to profess the sacred name in which thou hast believed.
Or art thou a professor of this holy religion? Thou hast enlisted thyself under the banner of Christ, in these days of liberty and peace, and while thou dwellest among those who encourage thy faith and profession. But inquire into thyself, hast thou such a love to 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 thy heart, as to bear and resist the storms of the world, and to stand firm and flourish still? Hast thou courage to declare thyself a disciple of the cross, and a professor of a crucified Saviour, when thou shalt happen to be in the company of those who blaspheme him?
Hast thou obtained holy boldness enough to practise virtue when it is out of fashion, and canst thou refuse to comply with the warmest temptations to a fashionable sin? Hast thou got such a victory over thyself as to dare to be singular, if thy company would lead thee into any modish vice? This is a hard lesson to young and tender minds, but it must be learned, O my soul, if thou wilt be a Christian indeed.
Hast thou courage to vindicate the innocent, when he is assaulted with slanders, and to frown upon those who delight in scandal? Or art thou so mean-spirited, as to join in a common jest that is thrown upon the absent, and to mix with the odious tribe of backbiters? Remember, this is a shameful baseness of spirit; but a Christian must be a man of honour.
Canst thou see thy friends, thy companions, indulge a sinful course, and hast thou not one kind admonition for them? Hast thou not virtue and courage enough to warn thy brother, and to turn his foot from the path of iniquity, that leads to ruin and death? But remember also, that gentleness and love must attend thy rebukes, if thou ever desirest they should attain success. A reprover should have a bold, but a tender spirit.
What zeal hast thou, O my soul, for reformation? Or canst thou bear with immoralities and corruptipns of every kind? And rather than venture to displease man, wilt thou let thy neighbours go on for ever to displease God?
What wouldst thou do, if thou wert called to face the great, and to profess religion before the mighty men of the earth? Is thy faith grown bold enough to show itself in a court, in a palace, and to venture all thy earthly interests for the defence of it?
Thus far concerning thy active fortitude. But how stands the case with regard to passive valour, and enduring of sufferings? Is thy heart firm under sharp trials of Providence? Canst thou resign thy health and thy ease into the hand of God without fretting or repining? Or doth thy courage faint, and thy impatience shamefully discover itself under the common pains and diseases of nature? I grant there is much of weakness derived even to a manly spirit, from the distempers of the flesh: when the nerves are unbraced, and the tabernacle of the body tottering, the soul partakes of the infirmities of this poor fleshly engine. O, frail, unhappy state of human nature, and souls that dwell in clay! But is it thy constant labour and prayer, that patience may have its perfect work, that thy spirit may be ever sedate under all the pains and disquietudes of this mortal flesh, and thy temper kept serene under all the frowns and clouds of heaven?
Art thou ready to face the king of terrors, and to descend into that dark valley? Thou must meet this adversary shortly, 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 attending it, but is got 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 attainment through the grace of Christ. I long to be armed with this sacred courage, and to have my heart fortified all around with these divine munitions. I would fain 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. Lord Jesus, I wait for thy divine influence, to bestow this grace, and thy divine teachings, to put me in the way to obtain it.
A HYMN FOR SERMON XXXI.
AM I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause
Or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease?
While others fought to win the prize,
And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight, if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy word.
Thy saints, in all this glorious war,
Shall conquer, though they die;
They view the triumph from afar,
And seize it with their eye.
When that illustrious day shall rise,
And all Thy armies shine
In robes of victory through the skies,
The glory shall be Thine.
—Isaac Watts, 1709.
Am I A Soldier Of the Cross—Andy Kenway
For Those Who Need Help understanding Christianity and Manliness (and Femininity).
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