WE NEED MINOR KEYS

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” (Ephesians 5:20).

      No matter what the source of the evil, if you are in God and surrounded by Him as by an atmosphere, all evil has to pass through Him before it comes to you. Therefore you can thank God for everything that comes, not for the sin of it, but for what God will bring out of it and through it. May God make our lives thanksgiving and perpetual praise, then He will make everything a blessing.

We once saw a man draw some black dots. We looked and could make nothing of them but an irregular assemblage of black dots. Then he drew a few lines, put in a few rests, then a clef at the beginning, and we saw these black dots were musical notes. On sounding them we were singing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below.”

There are many black dots and black spots in our lives, and we cannot understand why they are there or why God permitted them to come. But if we let God come into our lives, and adjust the dots in the proper way, and draw the lines He wants, and separate this from that, and put in the rests at the proper places; out of the black dots and spots in our lives, He will make a glorious harmony. Let us not hinder Him in this glorious work!

“Would we know that the major chords were sweet if there was no minor key? Would the painter’s work be fair to our eyes, Without shade on land or sea?

“Would we know the meaning of happiness, Would we feel that the day was bright if we’d never known what it was to grieve, Nor gazed on the dark of night?”

Many men owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.

When the musician presses the black keys on the great organ, the music is as sweet as when he touches the white ones, but to get the capacity of the instrument he must touch them all.

HOPE THOU IN GOD

Hope Thou in God

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” Psalm 42:5

The psalmist here is not talking to an audience. He is talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Hope thou in God.” That is one of the habits of the saints, and it is always a highly profitable habit. It means that we look squarely in the face the things that are lurking in the shadows. And very generally when we do that, with the fears and despondencies that haunt us, things prove not so desperate as they seemed. We all know how in the dead of night the slightest noise is apt to startle us. Imagination riots in the darkness. But we smile when we switch on the light and find the footstep is only a creaking board and the knocking only the flapping of a blind.

So also with the soul, formless fears are always the worst fears. Nameless and undefined despondencies are often the most depressing of despondencies. And just to face them and drag them to the light and manfully charge them to declare themselves, is very often the springboard to new tranquility. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Come, my soul, answer me that question! Stand there and be interrogated! Give thy reasons! Why art thou cast down? Very generally when one does that, things prove so much less hopeless than they seemed that the soul describes the glimmerings of the morning.

Now many people, when they read these words, are apt to interpret them erroneously. They regard them as a call to trust, but that is scarcely the meaning of the words. When I trust a person, I do more than hope. When I hope, I do less than trust. To hope in God is, therefore, something different from a feeble and attenuated trust. It is to base every hope that burns within us on the profound recognition that God is. Base your hope, whatever your hope may be–and hopes are of a thousand different kinds–on the recognition that God reigns, and that God, the God of the whole Bible, a Father infinitely loving, has been revealed to us in the Lord Jesus. If that is false, if there is no such Being, our sweetest hopes are mockeries. We have nothing to build on but the sand. Our hopes may come to ruin at any moment. But if God is and we are sure of that, surer than we are of our hands or feet, then there is hope for us and for the world. Hope, my soul, because there is a God–that is what the psalmist really means. Hope, because He reigns. Hope, because He is on the throne. Hope, because He cares for you and loves you; because He cares for all the world and loves the world; because He so loved the world that He gave Jesus.

The Future

Now, let us apply that thought a little in relation to the future of our race. We have many gloomy prophets in the world today who think our race is hurrying to ruin. They study history and find no hope in history. They deny the reality of progress and have lost all hope of civilization. Education, men had hope in that. Civilization, they had hope in that. The increase of dialogue among the nations, men put their hope in that. And then the war came wrecking hopes just as it wrecked cathedrals, and all these rosy, radiant hopes were as houses built upon the sand. What a wise book the Bible is. How it rejects and refuses shallow hopes. It never says to us, “Hope thou in education.” It says, “My soul, hope thou in God.” Base thy hope on the fact that He is reigning and moving on in His eternal purposes to an end that shall be fair as a perfect day.

Consider the years that lie ahead, hidden in the shadows of the future. For some, the prospect is very dark and frightening. Will your health hold out? So much depends on that for yourself and your wife and children. Will your powers hold out, or someday will they give? Will your loved ones all be spared to you? My dear friends, brothers and sisters, no hope that is worth anything rests upon contingencies like these. It rests upon the certainty of God. He reigns. He knows you and He loves you. In His eyes, you are infinitely precious. If you ascend up into heaven, He is there; if you make your bed in hell, He is there. Would it not tarnish the glory of His Name if for a single hour in all the future He were to leave you or forsake you? My soul, hope thou in God. Base your hope of the future upon God. Base it on nothing else and nothing less. Everything else and less is but contingency. Build on the sand, and though the sand is made of gold when the storm comes everything may perish. But who is a rock like unto our Rock?

The Hope of Immortality

Lastly, think of the hope of immortality and of the joy and rest and liberty of heaven when life shall flower to full perfection and we shall meet our loved ones again. That hope is in every human heart, and the question is what do you base it? Well, you may base it on the inward longing, or on the imperfection of our present being, or on the fact that there is so much on board that is not wanted for the voyage. But when the lights burn low and no argument can silence the questioning, “My soul, hope thou in God.” Base your eternal hope on the life and love and promises of God. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. No mother would let death rob her of her child if her power were equal to her love, and with Him, love and power are alike infinite.

THE THIRST OF GOD

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” Psalm 42:2

When the psalmist wrote this he was a fugitive in hiding somewhere across Jordan. He had been driven out by rebellion from Jerusalem, which is the city of the living God. To you and me, rich in the truth of Christ, that would not make God seem far away. And doubtless, the psalmist also had been taught that Jehovah was the God of the whole earth. Yet with an intensity of feeling which we of the New Covenant are strangers to, he associated Jehovah with locality. He felt that to be distant from the Holy City was somehow to be distant from his Deity. And so, in a great sense of loneliness and in a thirsty land where no waters were, he cried out, “My soul thirsteth for the living God.”

But when a poet speaks out of a burning heart, he always speaks more wisely than he realizes. When the soul is true to its own prompting, it is true to generations yet unborn. In the exact sciences, you say a thing, and it keeps forever the measure of its origin. But when an inspired poet says a thing, it endlessly transcends its origin. For science utters only what it knows, but poetry utters what it feels, and in the genuine utterance of feeling there is always the element of immortality. No one worries about the atoms of Lucretius, but the music of Lucretius is not dead. No one feeds upon the Schoolmen now, but thousands are feeding upon Dante. And the psalmist may have been utterly astray in his measurements of the sun and stars, but taught of God, he never was astray in the more wonderful universe of the soul. That is why we can take his words and strip them of all reference to locality, or there is not one of us, whatever his circumstances, who is not an exile beyond Jordan and thirsting for the living God.

Spiritual Thirst Indicates the Certainty of God

Now it seems to me that such spiritual thirst involves the ultimate certainty of God. It is an assurance that is never antiquated, an argument that never fails. I thirst for water, and from a thousand hills, I hear the music of the Highland streams. I thirst for happiness, and in the universe, I find the sunshine and the love of children. I thirst for God–and to me it seems incredible that the universe should reverse its order now, providing liberally for every lesser craving but not for the sublimest of them all. I don’t think, if such had been the case, that Christ would have said, “Seek, and ye shall find.” For then we should have sought the lesser things and found them to our heart’s content, but when we sought the greatest things of all, would have been hounded empty from the door.

That is why the psalmist also said, “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” But there are men who have said that out of aching hearts and ruined homes. They have said it when love had proved itself a treachery. For sometimes the seeming cruelty of things and the swift blows that shatter and make desolate have blotted out even from devout hearts the vision of the Father for a little. God never calls these broken children fools. He knows our frame and remembers we are dust. He is slow to anger and of great compassion, and He will shine upon these shadowed lives again. But the fool hath said in his heart there is no God. He scorns the verdict of his deepest being. He believes his senses which are always tricking him. He doesn’t have the courage to believe his soul. A man may say in his mind “There is no God,” and God may forgive him and have mercy on him. But only a fool can say it in his heart.

This thirst for God is sometimes very feeble, though I question if it ever wholly dies. You may live with a man for months, perhaps for years, and never light on that craving of his heart. But far away in the ranches of the West there are rough men who were cradled in our Scottish glens, and you might live with them for months, perhaps years, and never learn that they remembered home. But some evening there will come a strain of music–some song or melody–and on that reckless company there falls a quietness and they cannot look into each other’s eyes just then: and then it doesn’t take a prophet to discover that the hunger for the homeland is not dead.

There are feelings that you can crush but cannot extirpate, and the thirst for the living God is one of these. You may blunt and deaden the faculty for God, but as long as the lamp burns, it is still there. It was that profound and unalterable faith which made our Lord so hopeful for the most hardened sinners of mankind.

Our Rest Is in God

And then remember also that men may thirst for God and never know it. That eminent scientist Romanes tells us that for twenty-five years he never prayed. He was crowned with honour in a way that falls to few–and all the time there was something lacking. It was not the craving of a disciplined mind that feels every hour how much still remains to do; it was the craving of a hungry soul that never knew it was yearning after God. Then, in the embrace of love, they met, and meeting, there was peace. So it often is when souls are restless. They are craving for they know not what. And all the time, although they little dream of it, that “know not what” is God. For as Augustine told us long ago, God has made us for Himself, and we are restless till we find our rest in Him.

THE BLACK KEYS

Just wanted to share something with you today, that touched my soul, about 8 minutes of your time but well worth it…

Posted by Bryant Seabrooks on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

THE NEW SONG

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

When anybody sings it is an outward token of an inward happiness. Despondent people very seldom sing. When a man sings as he walks the country road it means that he has a heart of peace. When he sings while he is dressing in the morning, it means that he gladly accepts another day.  It does not have to be the voice of the archangels. It is your heart that is praising the God in you. And wherever Christianity has come, with its liberating and uplifting power, it has carried with it this note of singing gladness. The Stoic boasts, when life is harsh and cruel, that his head is “bloody but unbowed.” Paul and Silas did far more than that; they sang praises in the jail at midnight. Their religion was an exhilarating business as all true religion ought to be. They had not only peace in believing; they had joy.

Now if you listen to anyone singing at his work you will catch the strain of an old familiar melody. Nobody dreams of practicing new songs when he is walking along a country road. Yet the psalmist, thinking of life’s highways and of daily work and undistinguished mornings, says that God has put a new song in his mouth. You see, a song may be very old, and yet to us, it may be very new. It may break on us with all the charm of a novelty though it has come ringing down the ages. It may be like the coming of the spring which is always new and wonderful to us through every vanished year has had its spring. Generally, the new songs which God gives have come echoing down the corridors of time. Men sang them long ago in days that carry the memories of history. But when they come to us, and touch our hearts in fresh, vivid personal experience, they are as new as the wonder of the springtime.

The Bible, the Song of Heaven

One sees that very clearly with the Bible which is the grand, sweet song of heaven for us. No mere critic can ever grasp the Bible any more than he can grasp the magnificence of Shakespeare. Now the Bible is a book for childhood. It has stories which enthrall the childish-heart. There is the story of David and Goliath in it and of Daniel in the den of lions. And then comes life with all its changing years, with its lights and shadows and sufferings and joys, and what a new song the Bible is to us! The strange thing is it is an old, old song. It is “the song our mothers sang.” It is the song that kindled the great heart of Knox and satisfied Sir Walter Scott on his deathbed. Yet when our heart is deepened and our eyes are opened by sin and suffering and loneliness and mercy, a new song is put into our mouth.

We see that this is how God deals with us when we think of the old sweet song of love. For all love is of God, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in Him. Every spring of love in earthly valleys flows from the heavenly fountain. Every spark of love in human breasts is a spark of the eternal fire. The love of home, of parentage and childhood, not less than “the way of a man with a maid,” are but the ocean of eternal love creeping into the crannies of the shore. Now the song of love has gone echoing through the world since the first lovers gathered in the gloaming. Joseph knew to its depths the love of fatherhood. Yet when love indwells any human heart, its song is as new as the melody of spring, though since the dawn of time spring has sung its carol. Whenever a heart loves, God puts a new song into the mouth. No love song is a repetition, though the same things have been said a thousand times. And just because God has set His love for us, His old love songs are all new to us when first in the secret of our souls we hear them. God does not need to write new love songs. The old, old love song is the best. The heart is crying, “Tell me the old, old story.” But the wonderful thing is that when we hear it, old though it is to us, it is so thrilling that a new song is put into our mouth.

God’s Redeeming Grace Is an Individual Love Song

I notice, lastly, that the newness of the song runs down to the mystery of individuality. The song is new just because we are new. We hear much today of mass production. It is because of mass production things are cheap. Had God made humanity by mass production, then human souls would have been cheap. But the very fact that we are individuals and that no two are alike in the whole world is a token that we were never made that way. No two faces are ever just the same; no two temptations ever quite alike; no two joys without their subtle difference; no two heart-breaks indistinguishable–it is this element of newness in the separate life of every man and woman that takes the old song and makes it new. The song was sung by David, but David and you were never standardized. It may be sung by multitudes in heaven, but your experience of mercy is your own. And so, when God in His redeeming love puts the old sweet song of grace upon your lips, the song is new–it is your very own–it seems as if no one else had ever sung it.

THE REACH OF HIS FAITHFULLNESS

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.” Psalm 36:5

The faithfulness of God is one of the strong truths of the Old Testament. It is one distinction of the Jewish faith, in contrast with the ancient pagan faiths. Pagan gods were not generally faithful whether in Babylon or Greece. They were immoral, careless of their promises regardless of their pledged word. And the wonderful thing about the Jewish faith was that the God of the Jew was always faithful both to His covenant and to His children.

Such a magnificent and upholding thought sprang not only from personal experience, it was interwoven with the fact that the Jewish religion was historical. The Jew could look back over the tracts of time and discover there the faithfulness of God in a way the brief life might never show. As he recalled the story of the past, of Abraham traveling to the promised land, of the slaves in Egypt rescued from their slavery, of the desert pilgrimage of forty years, one thing that was stamped upon his heart, never to be erased by any finger, was that Jehovah was a faithful God.

That thought sustained the psalmist, and with him, all the saints of the old covenant. In the Old Testament, the word “faith” is rare, but the word “faithfulness” occurs a score of times. And here the psalmist, in his poetic way, and like Jesus, drawing his images from nature, says, “Thy faithfulness reacheth to the clouds.”

The Clouds of Scripture

One thinks, for instance, of the clouds of Scripture in such a passage as the Ascension story. When our Lord ascended to the Father, a cloud received Him from the disciples’ sight (Act 1:9). That was a lonesome and desolating hour when the cloud wrapped around Him and He was gone. They had loved Him so and leaned upon Him so that I take it they were well-nigh broken-hearted. Then the days went on, and they discovered that the engulfing cloud was not the end of everything. It, too, was touched by the faithfulness of heaven. He had promised to be with them always, and He was faithful to that promise still. He had said, “I will manifest Myself to you,” and that promised word was verified. The cloud had come and engulfed their Lord, and they thought the sweet companionship was over. But His faithfulness reached unto the clouds.

The Clouds of History

Again, one thinks of the clouds of history, for history has its dark and cloudy days. For instance, what a cloudy day that was when the Jews were carried off to Babylon. Exiled to a distant, heathen land, they thought that God had forgotten to be gracious. They said: “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God.” It was not the hardship of exile that confounded them. It was that God seemed to have broken His covenant and had been found unfaithful to His promises. By the waters of Babylon, they sat and wept. They hung their harps upon the willow trees. How could they sing of the faithfulness of God when He had let them go into captivity?

And yet the day was coming when the instructed heart would rise to another view of that captivity and say: “Thy faithfulness reacheth to the clouds.” Memory became illuminative. Things lost grew doubly precious. Distance helped them to a clearer vision of what sin was and what God was. And then across that dark and cloudy day came the ringing of prophetic voices with the message of ransom and return (Isaiah 35:1-10). They were not forgotten. They were not rejected. Their way was not passed over by their God. Sunny days did not exhaust His faithfulness. It reached even to the clouds. And of how many a dark day of history (as when we revert in thought to the World Wars) can we set to our seal that this is true!

The Clouds Over Our Lives

Again, one thinks how this great truth applies to the clouds that hang over our human lives. What multitudes can say, in an adoring gratitude, “Thy faithfulness hath reached unto the clouds”? Just as in every life are days of sunshine when the sky is blue and all the birds are singing, when every wind blows from where the Lord is and when we feel it is good to be alive, so in every life are shadowed days when the sun withdraws its shining for a season and the clouds return after the rain. It may be a time of trouble in the family or of great anxiety in business, the time when health is showing signs of failing or when the chair is empty and the grave is full. It may be the time when all that a man has lived for seems washed away like a castle in the sand. It may be the day of unexpected poverty.

How unlooked for often are the clouds of life. They gather swiftly like some tropical thunderstorm. We confidently expect a cloudless day, and before evening the sky is darkened. And yet what multitudes of folk as they look backward, with much experience in life, can take our text and in quiet adoring gratitude claim it as the truth of their experience. You thought (don’t you remember thinking?) that God had quite forgotten to be gracious. Possibly you were tempted to deny Him or secretly to doubt His care for you. But now, looking back upon it all, you have another vision and another certainty, just as the experienced psalmist had. If there are any of those who read these lines for whom this is the dark and cloudy day, who are anxious and distressed, who say in the morning, “Would God that it was evening”–have faith. Do not despair. The hour is nearer than you think when you also will say with David, “Thy faithfulness reacheth to the clouds.”

KNOWN IN ADVERSITIES

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities;” Psalm 31:7

One great comfort of assurance in this verse is that such knowledge is always very thorough. When someone has known us in adversities, then he has known us as we really are.

There is a sonnet by Blanco White, familiar to all the lovers of the beautiful, in which he develops the thought that but for the night, we should never know the stars. And so there is a very real sense in which we may say we never know a life till we have seen it in the darkness of adversity. When the sun is warm and all the leaves are green, you can scarcely see the cottage in the forest. But when the storm of winter sweeps the leaves away, then at last you see it as it is. It may be stronger than you ever thought, or it may be more battered and decayed, but always the winter shows it as it is.

Indeed, the revealing power of adversity strips the summer covering away. It shows us not in the setting of our circumstance, but as we are in naked reality. And therefore one who has known us in adversities, and been at our side in sorrow and calamity, knows us with an intimacy that probably nothing else can ever give. That is why the knowledge of a doctor is often more searching than that of any friend. That is why the knowledge of a wife often reaches to an unrivaled intimacy, for she has known her husband not only when all was well with him and when the sun was shining on his head, but when his heart was wary and his body sick and all his hopes seemed crumbled into dust.

Hidden Burdens

It was a great comfort to the psalmist also that the Lord had pierced through every disguise. That is why he uses the word soul: “Thou hast known my soul in adversities.” To the Hebrew, more simply than to us, that word “soul” just meant the real self. There was nothing theological about it. It was a common word in common use. And what the psalmist deeply felt was this: the knowledge of God had pierced through all disguises and known him in the secret of his being.

There are few things more beautiful in life than the way in which men and women hide their sorrows. On the street and in the shops there is a quiet heroism as great as any on the battlefield. You may meet a person in frequent conversation, yet all the time and unknown to you, some sorrow may be lying at his heart. How often a mother, when she is worn and ill, struggles bravely to hide it from her family. How often a husband, deep in business difficulties, struggles to keep it hidden from those at home. How often a minister, called from a scene of death which may mean for him the end of a friendship, has to go to a marriage and be happy there as if there were not a sorrow in the world. Talk of the disguises of hypocrisy! They are nothing to the disguises of the brave–those cheerful looks, that quiet and patient work when the heart within is heavy as a stone. That Spartan youth who kept a smiling face while the fox was gnawing away at him has his fellows in every community.

But Thou hast known my soul in adversity. That was the joy and comfort of the psalmist. There was one eye that pierced through all concealment, and that was the eye of an all-pitying God. Others had known his outward behaviour for in trials there are many eyes upon us. Others had heard his words and seen his actions and wondered at the courage in his bearing. But only God had read the secret story and seen how utterly desolate he was and known how often, in spite of all appearances, he had been plunged into profound despair.

There is a point where human knowledge ceases and beyond which human sympathy is powerless. It pierces deep if it is genuine, but there are depths to which it cannot pierce. And it was just there, in the region of his soul, that the psalmist felt that there was One who knew him and would never leave him nor forsake him. He felt it in the sustainment he received. He felt it in the strength that was bestowed upon him. He felt it in the peace that rested on him, a peace such as the world could never give. And so when the sun shone on him again, as sooner or later it does on all of us, he took his pen and wrote in gratitude, “Thou hast known my soul in adversities.”

The Condescension of God’s Love

There was one other comfort for the psalmist at which our text hints unobscured. He had been awakened by the knowledge that he speaks of to the infinite condescension of God’s love.

A well-known German religious writer who has brought comfort to multitudes of mourners tells us how once he had a visit from a friend who was in great distress. This friend had once been a very wealthy man, and now he had fallen upon evil days, and that very morning one of his old companions had passed him without recognition on the street. Then Gotthold, for such was the writer’s name, took him by the hand and, pointing upward, said, “Thou hast known my soul in adversities.”

It is one of the sayings of the moralist that the world courts prosperity and shuns adversity. There are rats in every circle of society who all hasten to leave the sinking ship. But what the psalmist had awakened to was this: the eternal God, who was his refuge, had known him and acknowledged him and talked with him when his fortunes were at their very blackest. Nothing but love could explain the condescension. He had found in God a friend who was unfailing. “If I ascend into heaven thou art there; if I make my bed in hell thou art there.” So was the world made ready for the Saviour who, when other helpers fail and comforts flee, never deserts us, never is ashamed of us, never leaves us to face the worst alone.

THE QUALITY OF COURAGE

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

There are three qualities, says Emerson in a familiar essay, which attracts the wonder and reverence of mankind. The first is disinterestedness, the second is practical power, and the third is courage. Every mythology has its Hercules. Every history it’s Wallace. There is nothing that men will not forgive one who has exhibited conspicuous gallantry. Even the dumb animals are ranked by us according to their possession of this quality, the bravest being nature’s aristocracy. There are people who make a joke of truth, but there are no people who make a joke of courage. The love of it, from Orient to Occident, is the touch of nature which makes the whole world kin. And that is why war will never cease to fascinate in spite of all proofs of its illogicality because there is in war a matchless stage for the display of courage.

The Universal Need of Courage

Nor can we wonder at this admiration when we remember the universal need of courage. There is no lot, no rank, no occupation, in which one of the first requirements is not fortitude.

When we are young we admire the showy virtues, and we put the emphasis upon the brilliant gifts. We are all enamored of what is glittering then, and we think that life is to grow great that way. But as the years roll on and life unfolds itself and we look on some who rise and some who fall, we come to revise our estimates a little. Then we discover that a certain doggedness is far more likely to succeed than brilliance. Then we discover that cleverness means much, but the courage which can persist means more. Then we discover what the master meant when at the close of the long years of toil, he said, Well done, not good and brilliant, but Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

Courage is needed by the mother in the home; it is needed by the young man in the office. Courage is needed for the hills of youth and for the dusty levels of our middle age. There is a courage peculiar to the pulpit, and another peculiar to the football field, and another peculiar to that darkened chamber where the head is throbbing and the lips are parched.

Let a man have all the talents without courage, and he will accomplish little in the world. Let a man have the one talent and a courageous heart, and no one can tell what things he may not do. Probably when the stories of our lives are written, our gifts will be found less diverse than we thought, and it will be seen that what set us each apart is the distinguishing quality of courage.

Courage–the Basis of Other Virtues

Courage is not an isolated virtue so much as the ground and basis of the virtues. It is like the tingling of health in a man’s body which makes itself felt in every activity.

I cannot help but wonder at electric current. It drives an engine; it lights the house in the evening; it rings a bell. One single energy and yet that single energy shows itself powerful in all these different forces, and so are the forces which God has given a man fed by the single energy of courage.

If could we get deep enough down among our vices, we would probably find they had a common source. Somewhere deep down in the unfathomed darkness there is one spark of hell that sets them all afire. So with our virtues and all that makes us men, there is one spirit that kindles and sustains them, and that enkindling energy is fortitude. For we never can be patient without courage, and without courage, we never can be pure. It calls for a little courage to be truthful, and it calls for a little courage to be kind. And sometimes it takes a great deal of courage just to say what we ought to say, and sometimes it takes more courage to say nothing.

My brothers and sisters, in this strange life of ours, never forget that fortitude is a victory. There is no final failure for the man who can say I am the master of my fate. Never to tremble at the looming shadow, never to shrink from the unwelcome duty, never to despair when things seem hopeless, is the one road to the music and the crown.

Do you know the commonest command in Scripture? The commonest command in Scripture is Fear not. Times without number in the Word of God it rings out upon us, Thou shalt not be afraid. For courage is at the roots of life, and it is the soil in which every virtue flourishes; it is no isolated or independent grace but is the nursing mother of them all.

The Quiet Courage

Now if this is so, it is at once apparent that the truest courage is an unobtrusive thing. There is nothing spectacular or scenical about it; it sounds no trumpet before it in the streets. I can agree there come moments in some lives when courage flashes into dramatic splendor. When the soldier kneels to save a wounded comrade–when the fireman risks his life to save a child–there is something in that which strangely moves the heart. That is the courage which thrills, and it is splendid, but the courage which thrills is rarely that which tells. No voices cheer it; no papers give its story; no medals reach it from any millionaire. It moves in the shadow of our dreary streets and dwells in the shelter of our humble homes and carries in a quiet and happy and victorious way the crosses which every morning brings. I suppose there was never anyone on earth quite so courageous as our Saviour Jesus Christ. Yet give a pagan that life of His to read, and I do not think he would say, How brave He was! He would say, How loving He was–how infinitely patient–how radiantly peaceful in the teeth of calumny; yet love and patience and radiance and peace were but His matchless courage in disguise. The courage which tells is not the courage which clamors. The courage which tells is the courage which is quiet. It sounds no trumpet; does not strive nor cry; never lifts up its voice in any street. It does things when it feels least like them, anoints the head for every hour of fasting, comes to the cross in such a smiling manner that others scarce suspect the cross is there.

Courage Is the Conquest of Fear

We see also along this line a thought that courage is different from insensibility. Courage is not the absence of fear; courage is the conquest of fear. One man, in some hour of peril, may feel that his heart is beating like a sledgehammer. Another, in an hour precisely similar, may scarcely be conscious of a quickened pulse. And yet the former may be the braver man if he does resolutely what the hour demands of him, for he has felt what the other never felt and feeling it, has brought it to subjection.

I often think of that fine old story of Henry IV, King of France. At the siege of Cahors, when he was young and in arms, his body began to tremble like an aspen. And he cried to his body so that all who were near him heard, “Vile carcass,” he cried, “thou tremblest, but thou wouldst tremble worse if thou but knew where I am going to take thee in a moment.” So saying, with a body trembling like an aspen, he flung himself into the thickest of the fight.

I have heard of two young men who had a cliff to scale, and one of them was white around the cheeks. And the other looked at him and with a sneer said, “Why, I believe you are afraid.”

“Yes,” he replied, “I am afraid, and if you were half as afraid as I am, you’d go home.”

The fact is, that as you rise in being you rise in the nobility of courage. It is those who are capable of being most afraid who are capable of being most courageous. And that is why the courage of a woman is something loftier than that of any beast, for she has a heart that by the touch of God has been made sensitive to every shadow. You will never fathom the bravery of Christ unless you bear in mind that Christ was sinless. For sin is always coarsening and deadening–“it hardens all within and petrifies the feeling.” And it is when we think that Jesus Christ was sinless, and being sinless was exquisitely sensitive, that we come to realize the matchless fortitude that carried Him without a falter to the cross.

I beg of you not for one moment to believe that because you feel afraid you are a coward. Moses and Paul and Jesus Christ Himself knew in its bitterness the shrinking of the flesh. Courage is not the absence of dismay; courage is the conquest of dismay. It is how a man deals and grapples with his trembling that makes the difference between strong and weak.

Courage Increases as Life Advances

It is one of the happy things, too, in human life, that courage grows easier as life advances. If we are living well and doing our work faithfully, we grow equal to our problem over the years. A child begins by fearing almost everything because it begins by knowing almost nothing. Every shadow may be a horrid specter and every dark room is full of ghosts. But the years pass and we enter many a shadow, and the abhorred specters are not there, and so our childish terrors pass away.

I knew an officer who in the thick of battle was reckoned among the bravest of the brave, and yet that man would blanch like any girl if he found himself in the presence of diphtheria. And I know scores of ministers within our city, our islands who would never think twice of visiting a diphtheria patient or an HIV/AIDS patient, and yet I am certain they would be ghastly spectacles within the fighting lines of Adrianople. The fact is that far more than we imagine, courage is a result of habit. The soldier who trembled in his first battle will enter his twentieth without a thought.

And so God is kind to us as life advances, and the fiery ardor’s of our youth decay with ripening knowledge some things become harder, but it does not become harder to be brave. The dash is gone. The youthful fire is gone. We are not heroic as at twenty-one. The old man cannot storm the heights of life with the reckless enthusiasm of the cadet. But he has seen such goodness of the Lord to him and had such sustainment in trial and difficulty, that he can lift up his heart and go forward gently where youth would despair in tragedy.

Self-forgetfulness

There are two open secrets of true courage to which I would call attention as I close, and one of them is self-forgetfulness. Just as the open secret of all happiness is never to think of happiness at all but to forget it and do our duty quietly and take the long road that leads through Galilee, so the open secret of all courage is to forget there is such a thing as courage in the gladness and the glow of an idea.

When David fought with the lion and the bear, he never thought of the lion and the bear. He only remembered that he was a shepherd and that his duty was to guard the sheep. So doing his duty in brave forgetfulness, courage came to him like a bird upon the wing and sang its morning music in his heart.

When Captain John Brown, that fine American hero, was asked why others were conquered by his regiment, “Well,” he replied, after a moment’s thought, “I suppose it is because they lacked a cause.” They had nothing to fight for that was worth a stroke, and having nothing to fight for or to die for, it followed “as the night the day” that they were ineffectual in battle.

The timidest creature will face tremendous odds when danger threatens its defenseless offspring. The Roman slave-girl will throw herself to martyrdom when she is animated by the faith of Christ. The woman, in her self-forgetful love for the infant that she has nursed at her bosom, will dare to starve and even dare to die. That is why love is such a nurse of courage, and that is where love is different from passion. For passion is selfish and seeks its own delight and will ruin another if it is only gratified. But love is unselfish and seeketh not her own and hopeth all things and believeth all things, and like John Brown’s regiment is always ready because for the battle it never lacks a cause.

Desdemona, in a play of Shakespeare, is
A maiden never bold
Of spirit so still and quiet that her motion
Blushed at herself

yet standing at Othello’s side, Desdemona confronts her father and her world, and she confronts them because she loves Othello so.

Love for her fledgling makes the wild bird brave. And now comes Christ, and by His life and death writes that word love upon the gate of heaven. And so He has made it possible for thousands, who otherwise would have faltered in the shadow, to pluck up heart again and play the man and to be strong and of good courage by the way.

The Sense of God

The other secret of true courage is a strong and overmastering sense of God. When you get deep enough, I think you always find that in every life that has been brave. When Peter was separated from his Lord for a while, then he denied Him with a fisherman’s curses. With no one near but the soldiers and the servants, he was as a reed shaken with the wind.

But when the Lord came in and looked on Peter, Peter went out into the night and wept; and so repentant, became a man again. When I can go to my labours saying God is with me–when I can lie on my sickbed saying God is here–when I can meet my difficulties saying, This is God–when dying I can whisper He is mine–then in communion with that power and goodness I am no longer tossed and tempest-driven, but in the storm and shadow I am strong. It is that conviction Jesus Christ has brought to the weakest heart in the most dreary street. Prophets and psalmists might believe it once, but the poorest soul can believe it now.

To be in communion with God through Jesus Christ–to know that He is ours and we are His–is the victory which overcomes the world. Such courage is not based on fancied power. It is based on the absolute and the eternal. It is not kindled by any glow of anger. It is kindled and kept by the eternal spirit. So can the weakest dare to stand alone, and dare to live alone, and dare to die alone, saying The best of all is, God is with us.

BEHOLDING AND INQUIRING

Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4

In this verse, so full of riches, we have the spiritual ambition of the psalmist, and the notable thing is how his single purpose resolves itself into two parts. Just as the single seeds of many plants separate themselves out into two seed-leaves, and just as the sunshine, that most fruitful unity, breaks up, to put it roughly, into light and heat, so the spiritual ambition of the psalmist, of which he is speaking in this verse, reveals itself under two different aspects. One thing he desires of the Lord, and then that one thing shows itself as two things. He yearns to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His holy temple. And from this, we gather that beholding and inquiring are but different aspects of one life, vitally interwoven with each other. They are not contrary nor contradictory like day and night or cold and heat. They are related elements in every life that is hungering and thirsting after God. All the experiences of the soul in its inward rest and never-ending searching may be summed up in beholding and inquiring.

The Desires of Every Christian

One notes, first of all, how spiritual life runs down its roots into beholding. “We beheld his glory, full of grace and truth.” “Behold the Lamb of God.” There are three desires in the heart of every Christian one is to run his course with honour. The second is to endure, without embittering, the bitterest that life can bring. The third and deepest of the three is this, to be always growing more like the Master in inward character and outward conduct.

Now tell me, what is the Gospel way towards the achievement of these deep desires? It is not speculation nor philosophy. It is a way within the reach of every man. To run with honour, to endure the worst, to be changed into the likeness of the Lord–all of them are based upon beholding. “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus.” “He endured as seeing him who is invisible.” “We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image.”

David was not a dreamer. He did not covet a temple-life of idleness. He wanted to run well and to endure and to be transformed into a glowing spirit. That was why, beset by sin, he cried with all the passion of his heart, “One thing have I desired–to behold.”

Inquiry Follows Beholding

The next suggestion of the words is this, that beholding is always followed by inquiring. We see that in every sphere of life and not only in the region of the spirit. Think, for instance, of the stars as they shone down on ancient man. For ages, in those dim and distant days, man must have been contented with beholding. But just because he was a man, made in the image of God, he could not rest in any mere beholding. He began to wonder and wondering inquired. What were these lamps glowing in the heavens? Who kindled them? Who kept them burning? Did they have an influence on human life? Did they foretell the destinies of mortals? So man, confronted with the stars of heaven, first beheld the beauty of the Lord and then inquired in His holy temple.

Or, again, think of the world of nature that lies around us in its beauty. Touched with the finger of God, man has beheld that beauty in a way no beast has ever done. No dumb creature has any sense of beauty. The scenery makes no difference to it. The oxen, knee-deep in the pasturage, never lift their eyes up to the hills. One great difference between man and beast is this, that man, and man alone in this creation, has beheld the beauty of the Lord. The sunlight as it glances on the sea–the flowers that make beautiful the meadow–the haunting mystery of the deep forest–the lake, the lights and shadows of the glen–such things have touched the heart of man and moved him and thrilled him into song in a way no dumb creature ever knew. Just because man is man one thing is true of him–he beholds the beauty of the Lord. But just because man is a man and not a beast, he never can rest content with mere beholding. There is something in him, the breath of his Creator, impelling him to ever-deepening wonder until at last in that wonder he inquires. “Hath the rain a father, or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it” (Job 38:28-29)? So science is born, and all theology, and growing insight into the ways of God–because beholding is followed by inquiring.

Inquiries Are Answered by Beholding

There is one other relationship to mention, for without any question David knew it. The gladness of the spiritual life is that its deepest inquiries are answered by beholding. Let any man inquire after God, for instance, eager to know what kind of God He is, longing to be assured that He is Love so that He may be absolutely trusted–well, there are many ways that such a man may take in the hope of answering that deepest of all questions. He may examine the arguments for God, or he may read biography or history; he may turn to the reasonings of philosophy or rely on the pronouncements of the Scripture. But, my dear reader, there is another way–it is what the Bible calls a new and living way: he can behold the beauty of our Lord. He can behold His love and carry it up to heaven and say, “That love of Jesus is the love of God.” He can behold His care for every separate soul and lift that up to the heart to the throne. He can behold His loyalty to His friends and His pardoning mercy for the guiltiest sinner, and then he can say, “God is just like that.” Do that, and what a difference it makes. God is no longer cold and unconcerned. He is love. He actually cares. He will never do His children any harm. “We beheld His glory, full of grace and truth, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father.” The agonized inquiries of the heart are answered–by beholding.