Page images
PDF
EPUB

Of these the canine is often seen in the malignant calumniator; the lupine in the lynching mob or the banded conspirators for public wrong or personal abuse ; the taurine in the fanatic and the anarchist; the leonine in many a soldier insensible to fear.

Higher than any or all of these is the moral, the human courage, which alive with nerve and alive to danger calmly masters the nerve and meets the danger. It is the courage of the gallant officer. Said a stolid companion to his brother officer as the battle was about to open : “You seem to be agitated; are you afraid ?” “Yes," was the answer; “and if you were half as afraid as I am, you would run away.” The manly courage often is exhibited in the battle of life. Some men baffled or defeated in their business or professional or public career are never extinguished but rise elastic and vigorously move on.

But how often too the seeming strength gives way in the hour of adversity and proves to have no root in itself! Thus Ralston, the most brilliant of the California money kings, a man of nerve, energy, audacity, who had risen from being a Mississippi pilot to enormous wealth, unlimited credit, vast schemes, a palace residence, and unbounded hospitality, when the day of failure came drowned himself in the bay of San Francisco. He was the type of how many a moral failure!

But far above the highest form of genuine moral courage, indeed its basis, essence, and guaranty, is Christian courage.

It rests upon a firm faith in God and his promises and it shows itself in the firm and

fearless following of the path of duty. Do not confound it with indifference, heedlessness, recklessness, stolidity, obstinacy, or insubordination. It quietly surveys its surroundings and its openings, thoughtfully chooses its course, and then unfalteringly holds it to the end. It looks all around and it looks also beyond and above. It trusts in God and, in its best estate, while it sees all, it shrinks from nothing. It can dwell in the feeblest frame, it can calm the most excitable spirit, for it listens to the voice, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," and responds, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Such a courage as this let me commend to those who are looking forth expectantly upon the eventful journey of life. For, however hard to gain and hard to retain, it contains the “promise and the potency" of a life of peace, usefulness, and blessing. It is pressed upon us by the weightiest considerations, both negatively and positively.

I. Negatively. (1) Fears, forebodings, and anxieties are commonly misdirected. They are well termed " borrowed troubles.” They do not belong to us and probably never will. How commonly are our forebodings a mere waste of emotion! The evils we most gloomily anticipate, how often are they averted, and those we fear not are the ones that overtake us. The dreaded consumption is intercepted by the fever. Accident forestalls the apoplexy or the cancer. He that fears the steamboat or the locomotive is killed by the horse's hoof, the falling tree, or the runaway. Hidden snakes in India destroy more lives than the great railways of Britain.

He that anxiously guards against the wants of old age is cut down in his early prime. The feeble son outlives his robust brother. The petted child is snatched away from the toilsome provision for his future; and they who have dreaded only the death of their child have sometimes been cursed in his life. How many a man has spent anxious hours and wakeful nights planning for emergencies that never came!-a fortress and cannon, but never the enemy; an anxious gaze into the dense northern fog, while the storm comes sweeping from the clear southern sky. Saith the Scripture, “as if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him.”

(2) Fears and forebodings, while in the pathway of duty, are therefore superfluous and ineffectual. There are two kinds of things, says a good maxim, about which we should never worry, the things we can help and the things we cannot help. Many a man carries on his shoulders a burden that God never placed there; he carries it for the love of groaning. A judicious foresight and a reasonable care will guard against impending evils that are within our province and our power. But fear disturbs alike the sight and the foresight. Its prevision is but poor vision; the thing that seems to be before the eye is in the eye. The mental astigmatism changes the fair circle into an oblong and a long-drawn line. The turbid humors see in the midge upon the windowpane a bird of prey in the air, in two gleams of phosphorescence by night the eyes of the tiger ready to spring. God is commonly better than a

good man's fears; and when foreseen evil actually comes it proves more manageable and tolerable than we apprehended. From some eminence in the highway you have looked out upon the road in advance, and it seemed a long and discouraging steep before you, as far as the eye could reach. But the formidableness of the climb vanished as you approached, and you mounted with comparative ease and moved on as before. So it is often in life. Most difficulties lessen and disappear when resolutely faced. When unmanageable and beyond control, fear is ineffectual and futile. Out on the ocean of life when the storm comes we can but reef the canvas, hold the helm to the course, and leave all to Him who holds the wind in his fists. The Alexandrian vessel went to pieces, but Paul got safe to land; Jonah in the fish' was on the way to Nineveh; the Deluge could not drown the ark.

(3) Fears and forebodings react injuriously upon ourselves. They distract our efforts. They waste the great motive powers of our nature. A traitor has entered, and the stronghold of “Mansoul” is a kingdom divided against itself. The energy of action is lost in dissension, and the force that should have faced the foe is fighting within.

When fear comes hope goes. With hope goes courage — which, by derivation, is heartiness, and when heart and hope are gone, all is gone and failure comes. Despondency makes us timid and shrinking, and we settle down into a morose and repining helplessness and selfishness.

Forebodings of evil are a call for opposition. Birds of ill omen that flee from the ringing voice of spiritual health come at the croak of despondency and spiritual disease. They watch for the gloaming. Fear invites foes. I have seen a whole herd of cattle flee before one barking dog, which when fairly faced by the least and hindmost of the herd ran yelping away. And as the brute can quail before the human eye, and the brute force of the bully before the calm moral assurance of the manly soul, even so do superable obstacles and oppositions sink before the strong bright spirit of duty and of hope. The bird of prey shrinks to the midge on the windowpane, the grim terror of the darkness becomes again a decayed and blackened log, and the giant of the Hartz Mountains the traveler's own shadow cast upon the fog. Grant's supposed twenty howling wolves, when he came and counted them, were only two, and they ran.

II. Considered positively, Christian courage has all in its favor. (1) It concentrates the energies. The firm conviction that we are about our Master's business may well rule out all apprehensions and distractions and irresolutions. So long as I am in the king's highway, I have only to go forward, for no hostile thing can touch me in that path. Out of it I know not where I am or what shall befall. I have read of a hunter lost two days in the Rocky Mountains, wandering about, weary, famished, and at last aimless and well-nigh hopeless, and of the joy and the new life that spread through soul and body alike when he suddenly struck a guide

« PreviousContinue »