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And what noble courage was displayed by Daniel, and by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!
It may be that some of you will need courage to venture your life at the call of duty. You may need it for the right discharge of your business. You may need it to act vigo.. rously in endeavouring to save the lives of others. "If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto 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 it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works? You may need courage in order to defend your country and your friends and we know that when duty calls, Christians ought to be ready to "lay down their lives for the brethren."
You will need courage to resist the mere apprehension of evil. There are many who are under no present pressure of calamity, who yet torment themselves with the fear of imaginary evils to come. But to all his people Jesus says, with regard to such apprehension, "Fear not." "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." The evils you dread may never arrive; but if they should, they will bring their comforts along with them, and your strength will be as your day.
You will certainly need courage to bear the evils of life while they are actually pressing on you. Disappointments, losses, sickness, pain, bereavements by the death of friends -all these require true Christian courage, to bear and improve them aright.
And you will need courage to meet the last enemy in your own death. That will be one of your greatest trials, as it will be your last: and to bear it with composure will be the finest display of fortitude. To boast beforehand is very easy; but not so to finish your course with joy, and to remain courageous to the last.
Indeed, the grace of courage is essential to the character and safety of the Christian. Not that every degree of fear is fatal. But that degree and kind of fear which leads to renounce Christ is absolutely so. Those who fall by this are "the fearful," spoken of in that passage of the Revelation-" He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable-shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
In order, then, to the attainment of this necessary grace
of courage, or, which is the same thing, in order to your preservation from sinful fear, let the following brief directions be considered and followed.
Begin with a well-founded hope in God's mercy, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without this, though you may be free from fear, you must be exposed to the most awful danger; and therefore, though you may be fool-hardy, you cannot be rationally and scripturally courageous. But, if God be "on your side," as the Psalmist expresses it, then you need "not fear what man can do unto you."
Endeavour, next, after a very firm trust in God's providence. Remember that the slightest evil cannot befall you without your heavenly Father, and believe that he causes all things to work together for your good.
Reflect on the noble examples of courage which are recorded in Scripture. Think what the Old Testament worthies were able to do and suffer through faith. Think how Peter and John "rejoiced to suffer shame for Jesus' name." Think how Paul said, "What mean ye to weep and to break my heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but to die, at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus.' "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I may finish my course with joy." Think of these patterns, and the same truth that supported them will support you.
Vex not yourselves with fears as to the future, but give yourselves to the duties of the present. "Be careful for nothing, but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God; and the peace of God, that passeth all understanding, shall keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus."
Consider the exhortations and promises of the Word of God, and have the substance of all, and the very words of many of them, in your memory. They abound to this effect throughout Scripture, especially in Isaiah, and the Psalms. Let one passage suffice here: "Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
Think of the confession that awaits you from the Lord, and the crown of glory which will be yours, at last, if you be faithful. He assures you that he will confess you before his Father and the holy angels: and he says to each of you, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown
of life." Think often of this; and the thought will far more than counterbalance any reproach, or opposition, you may meet with here.
And, finally, mindful of your own weakness, and how certainly both your strength and courage would fail if you were left to yourselves, be much in prayer to God for this grace of holy courage. "In the day that I cried unto thee, thou answeredst me," said the Psalmist, "and didst strengthen me with strength in my soul." Pray much to God, then, that he would enable you to be valiant for the truth, and faithful to the end. "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord."
LUKE XII. 10–12.
"And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven. 11. And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: 12. For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say."
CONTINUING to address himself directly to his disciples, in the hearing of the vast multitude, our Lord, in the first verse of the passage now read, utters a solemn warning respecting what is called the sin against the Holy Ghost. And here let us consider the nature of this sin-the inevitable destruction which it entailed-and the application of the subject to ourselves.
First, as to the nature of this sin, or what it consists in: -the reference to it here is so brief, that it might be very difficult to gather its meaning from this passage alone; but, when we consult the parallel passages in Matthew and Mark, the general import, at least, becomes clear. The passage in Matthew is in the 12th chapter, 31st and 32d verses. Before reading these verses, let it be noticed, that our Lord having just cured a man who was possessed with a devil both blind and dumb, the Pharisees, when they heard it, said, "This fellow doth not cast out devils but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils;" on which, our Lord proceeded to show the folly of such an idea, and then, in that connexion, added, "Wherefore, I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." And when we look at Mark iii. 28, we find our Lord, after a similar exposure of the malicious insinuation, expressing himself thus: "Verily, I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men,
and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:" and then, the evangelist adds, as explanatory of the sin of which Christ spoke," Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit." Taking the three accounts together, and especially, considering the concluding words of Mark," Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit," I think it is abundantly plain that the sin against the Holy Ghost consisted in those who actually saw and were convinced of the fact of miracles, imputing the miracles which were wrought by the Holy Ghost, to Satan. Some commentators consider that our Lord referred only to imputing to diabolical agency the miracles wrought by the extraordinary effusion of the Spirit on and after the day of Pentecost: and therefore, that it could not be committed at the time Christ spoke. But others, allowing that there was then a most extraordinary manifestation of power, can see no good reason, in the nature of things, for making such an absolute distinction, and think, as to the accounts of the evangelists, that they all, especially that of Mark, naturally lead us to consider Jesus as speaking in reference to what had just taken place, as well as in reference to what was to happen afterwards.
Jesus declared that this sin entailed enevitable destruction on those who were guilty of it: while every other sin, and in particular, speaking a word against himself, or blaspheming the Son of man, should be forgiven. Many of the Jews were guilty of opposing and blaspheming Christ. They called him a gluttonous man, a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners, and a deceiver of the people; but there is no doubt that not a few of those who resisted and spoke against him at first, were converted and saved. "All manner of sin and blasphemy," said he, with one exception, "shall be forgiven unto mem:" not that any sin can be forgiven unless men turn and apply for forgiveness in the appointed way; but the most heinous sins are pardonable which do at all admit of repentance and application to the divine mercy, and will be pardoned to those who repent and believe the gospel. As for the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, however, it could never be forgiven. And why? Just because in its own nature it excluded the possibility of the reception of the only method of salvation. It evidently amounted to a rejection of Christ at the time; and, as it imputed the miracles, even under a conviction of their reality,