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LXV. The Strait Gate
LXVI. The Door Closed
LXVII. Conscience, an Earnest of the Last Judgment
LXVIII. Use to be made of Misgivings of Conscience
LXIX. Consolations of a Good Conscience
LXX. Privileges of Martyrdom
LXXI. Wishing for Christ's Coming
LXXII. The Spirit of this World exemplified in Herod
2 Tim. i. 7.
But of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." As in all other matters of importance it is plainly necessary that those who are engaged about them should be aware of their position-should know what they are about-it may be well asked, whether there is not the same necessity imposed on us with respect to religion and the matters of our eternal state ?
It seems strange, indeed, if, in farming or shopkeeping, or any kind of trade or labor, it is impossible for people to get on without attending to what they are about, and being in some degree at least) in earnest in the accomplishment of it—that, in the great matter of God's service, and the business of life everlasting, we may safely go on ignorant of our position, without system or regularity, and, in fact, without knowing exactly what we are about.
We need to be very frequently reminded that religion is something substantial—that it is not a matter of mere fancy or imagination, or of choice, or custom, invented by man to make him pass through life with more comfort and satisfaction. Nor, again, may we imagine that it is something additional, and by-the-by (as it were) to be attended to or not, as people have time or inclination. We need to be frequently reminded, that any notions of this kind are highly dangerous, and the more so on account of their being very prevalent. And the reason why they are so prevalent, is because they suit so easily with our natural indolence, our unwillingness to encounter danger, exertion, or the world's ridi. cule, in the hope of rewards, which, however, confessedly valuable, are yet future and invisible.
Hence the necessity of our recollecting that the true Christian must ever be on his guard against these mean unworthy dispositions-energetic and resolute, and yet with a heart full of love and compassion, and withal self-possessed and cautious, as knowing on the one hand his own weakness, and on the other the strength of that arm on which he is authorized to rely.
Thus, I say, does the Christian (be his station in life what it may) calmly, yet zealously press forward in his course of daily trial, happy to be allowed the honor of being the servant of Jesus Christ, and bearing in mind the apostle's word-partly of warning, partly, of encouragement—that God hath not given us the spirit of fear [in the original, cowardice], but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
Now these words, though originally addressed to a bishop, and with reference
to the ministerial office, yet need not be limited in their application. For of all who are duly baptized into the faith of the Lord Jesus, it is unquestionably required that they manfully fight under his banner against sin, the world, and the devil, and continue his faithful soldiers and servants unto their lives' end; wherein is implied, to say the least, that we strive earnestly and habitually to get rid of all mean cowardly fears, and go on in the path marked out for us by our heavenly guide, with all energy of conduct, and charity of heart, with such caution, too, and selfpossession, as become persons who know what they are about.
That this is the kind of life we should aim at, cannot be doubted; the question for us is, whether it is, in fact, the kind of life we are leading, or praying and endeavoring to lead.
“First of all,” says St. Paul, “God hath not given us the spirit of cowardice”—for that is the proper meaning of the word, which in the original is not the same with that which is generally translated “fear," but quite different.
It is used also, in a few other places, in the New Testament, as for example* when, after repeated demonstrations of the almighty power and infinite compassion of the holy Jesus, his disciples were still weak and wavering, and alarmed at apparent danger, his gentle yet solemn rebuke
was, “Why are ye so fearful (cowardly]? how is it that ye have no faith?” Whence we learn that this spirit of cowardice is so inconsistent with the character, as even to prove a want of faith, so far as it influences the heart.
Again, on another occasion,t when our blessed Lord was encouraging and cheering the fainting spirits of his disciples, perplexed and alarmed at his prospect of his leaving them: “Let not your heart be troubled,” said he to them; "neither let it be afraid” (cowardly).-"Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” And, again, in a well-known passage in the twenty-first chapter of St. John's Revelation, in the description of those who shall be judged liable to the second death, the first-mentioned are (in our translation the “fearful,” but originally) the cowardly, and then next, the "unbelieving." These are all the places where the word is used in the New Testament.
The spirit of cowardice, then, is opposed to the spirit of faith. In whatever degree we shrink back, and are afraid or ashamed to act up to what we know to be our Christian duty, so far we prove ourselves, in the sight of him that knoweth the hearts, wanting in faith, however ardent may be our feelings, however confident our professions. For in religion, as in other things, a person may use bold words, and yet be a coward in heart and practice.
But, says the inspired apostle, God hath not given us -us Christians—this spirit of cowardice—this base unworthy disposition is not from him, nor among the fruits of his blessed spirit. Rather we are taught to expect from that heavenly source, a spirit most posite to that of cowardice—a spirit of energy, charity, prudence; ena
St. Mark iv. 40.
f St. John xiv. 37.
bling us to proceed and go forward in our Christian course under every circumstance, to serve the Lord without distraction, to oppose men's errors without enmity to their persons, to walk warily as in days of danger and perplexity
God gives us not the spirit of cowardice, but of power. He sanctions not the enervating, disheartening notion, that we are to do nothing in religion, that we are to let things go as they may, without rousing and exerting ourselves to active improvement, and growth in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus; or, again, the notion that we are good enough, and safe, and shall do well enough at last, though, in fact, our hearts and lives are devoted to things temporal, wholly or chiefly-all these dispositions are not from God, nor are sanctioned by his blessing. From him proceeds the spirit not of cowardly indolence, but (as the apostle says) of "power," of active duty, energy, and resolution.
That the word here translated “power” has this meaning, viz, of inspired energy and courage, we may know as from other passages in the New Testament, so from these two. In Acts vi. it is said of the holy martyr—“Stephen, full of faith and power”—as far as possible from any distrust or apprehension as to the holy cause of the gospel which he had undertaken.
And in the Revelation of St. John, the divine message to the bishop of the Philadelphian church, was: “ Thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name ;” a little strength, energy, or power-as not having like some others, altogether fallen away through indolence, or faint-hearted cowardly fear.
Hence we infer, that the spirit by which the faithful Christian is actuated, is one of energy, resolution, and steady perseverance; and inferring this, we are bound to put it closely to our consciences, as follows:
Whether our life is one of diligence and activity, and this diligence and activity, not limited to this world, but actually in the cause and service of Almighty God.
Whether we avoid, as much as possible, mixing in idle company, reading vain and trifting books, or other