Page images

chance is another man's mischance. Men and things seem to clear the way before the faithful and courageous. Often, as the poet says, “ they are able because they seem to be able," oftener still because they think they are able -- and then other men think so too. They can be firm, because they stand firm. It was an answer as true as brave when the slandered blacksmith was urged to sue for defamation of character: "I can hammer out on my anvil a better character than all the lawyers of Christendom can give me.” In a thoroughly right cause and course there may be a wise audacity. It commands approval, masters circumstances, and overmasters opposition. Marbot, on the battlefield in Russia, was sent with a vital message across a plain commanded by cannon and sprinkled thick with Cossacks. His two predecessors, cautiously skirting the plain, had both been killed. He mounted his feet and trusty horse, headed straight for the post, flew like the wind over the plain, dashed by Cossack after Cossack confounded by his rush, and delivered his message unharmed by lance or ball. To pause was death, to drive on was life and success.

Many an enterprise, great and small, has depended for its success or failure on the nerve of the adventurer at critical moments. Can he hold on and hold out? The world is covered and history is filled with results that hang on the answer. For if the first step costs, the last step tells. Instances innumerable in every department of life — military, professional, political literary, scientific, and philanthropic — come thronging on the sight and the memory, of those who surrendered on the eve of victory and of those who wrested victory from defeat. Grant would have swept the whole valley of the Mississippi clean after Fort Donelson, had he been permitted by his chief. How his indomitable tenacity in the Wilderness and Sherman's bold march to the sea crushed the Rebellion, although Sherman early in the war had been pronounced a "crazy” man and at the end of his great march and victory was insulted and denounced as a "traitor."' Wellington is reported by Miss Berry to have said of Waterloo : “I saw the battle four times lost that day;" and he briefly described it to another: “We pounded them and they pounded us, and I suppose we pounded the hardest, so we gained the day.”

Think of the persevering courage of the great inventors and discoverers. Think of the works that have been rejected by publisher after publisher, and have forced their way to and through the public. When you think of Keats, killed, it has been said, by Gifford's criticism, remember Wordsworth, followed for at least fifteen years by “the ferocious attacks of Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review; and yet there

Wordsworth going about the Lake District as hale and serene as ever, climbing mountains," writing poetry, "and leading his customary open-air life as heartily as if no Jeffrey existed.” Think of Scott as he wrote in his journal the day after he had lost every dollar he possessed : "I experienced a sort of determined pleasure in confronting the very worst aspect of


this sudden reverse, and saying, I stand here an honest man” — and at last paying every dollar of debt. In the affairs of kingdoms the mind reverts to such as Rudolph of Hapsburg promptly seizing the crucifix for his coronation ceremony when the scepter could not be found, and issuing a call to arms for the safety of the empire when there were but "five shillings of bad money” in the imperial treasury; of Ferdinand and Isabella joining their great destinies when in their poverty they borrowed money for the expenses of the wedding ceremony; of the last Stuart on the one side, weak, wicked, and willful, throwing away his opportunity, abandoning his throne in a critical hour of hope, and of his rival and successor on the other side, with his calm religious determination, “whose life was one long disease,” but of whom “no man could ever discover what was the thing that the Prince of Orange feared,” holding on till he changed the history of England. Or in individual life the mind turns to such brilliant ones as Burns and Poe wrecked in mid-career by their vicious weaknesses, and to Gough rising from just as desperate a condition by a mighty struggle of Christian courage to a long career of honor, power, and blessing. In philanthropic efforts see how Providence opened the way to the serene courage of the great philanthropists. Behold through what straits every Christian college in the country has been carried by the unfaltering faith and hope of good men.

See how the great missionary boards have been led from small beginnings and through great discouragements, and oppositions even, to fix the eye of the world on their achievements; and how the rude and despised Salvation Army by unfaltering religious heroism has wrought its way to recognition and to power. And not only does the course of Providence care for the vigorous good man during his life, but it often watches over his memory too. For while in vain did the great philosopher pathetically leave his “name and fame to men's charitable speeches and to foreign nations, and to the next age,” for the poet's verdict still clings to his name,

“ The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind,”

on the other hand, after two centuries of contempt and obloquy, the memory of the great Protector was at last cleared up, as of the best and ablest monarch that ever swayed the destinies of England. And if fortune favors the brave, all history and biography show that Providence favors the Christian brave. For

(4) Christian courage rests on God's promises. I need not quote those promises at large. They run through from Genesis to Revelation ; from the assurance, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward," to the closing announcement, • Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me.” And those two golden clasps of his Word sparkle all between with such jewels as: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord”; “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee"; "Fear ye not therefore”; “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing”; “In due season we shall reap, if we faint not”; “Lo, I am with you alway"; "My grace is sufficient for thee." Why cite them in detail, when the whole burden of the Word is that God is forever the ally of those who ally themselves to him? Behind the great battalions of God's providence stands the fast fortress of his Revelation. That assures us that God is evermore for the right and with the good; that he will open the way for them to do good, and give them all the strength needed to do the special good to which they are called.

The work differs for the times and the man, but the promise is the same for all. They are to seek the strength for to-day and wait for to-morrow. They are promised help for the thing they do, not for the thing they do not do. They need no "dying grace" until they die. Living grace is the grace for life. The promises cover it all, living grace and dying grace – and martyr grace also. Martyr grace,

As I have stood in some foreign museum and looked upon the thumbscrews, pincers, iron boots, the “little ease," the Shevington's daughter, and the rack of ancient times, I have been glad I was not there then. And when one reads of the indescribable atrocities which in the Roman empire, Italy, Spain, France, Holland, England, have been committed on hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of unflinching confessors; when he comes to details and thinks of Hooper and Rogers ordering away the conditioned pardon that lay before them as they stood in the fire, of Cranmer burning off the offending right hand in advance of the martyrdom,

I say.

« PreviousContinue »