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can bear to be alone with God in this world ; that faith will pass unshaken through the gates of death, and meet God with no ignoble fear in the world to come. It is easy to believe, or think we believe, in a crowd. We feel then that the responsibility is divided: there is a sense of safety in the mere fact that many are trusting to the same hope as ourselves. But we may mistake trust in our clique for trust in our belief; and trust in our belief for trust in God. And it is good for such props to be at times rudely knocked away, if only that we may see whether we can stand alone; alone, as far as men are concerned ; but not alone, “because the Father is with us.”
It is not strange, therefore, that the Bible should be full of the histories of men who are distinguished by the quality of boldness. Abraham leaving his country and people to found a nation in a distant land ; David going forth alone to meet the giant; Elijah before his enemy Ahab; the three children in the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar ; Daniel in the wild beasts' den; to say nothing of the faithful rank and file of the earth: the “seven thousand” whose stories are not written in the chronicles of human penmen, but whose names are in the
“ book of life;" the “ seven thousand,” the glorious minority, who in all times remain as God's witnesses, and will not bow the knee to Baal. I say it is not strange that characters like these should form the staple of the Scripture biography; for they are the men by whom the great fight has been fought and the victory won. In days of lawlessness and infidelity these have defended, against all comers, the standard of the Most High: these have maintained unquenched the beacon-lights of God. The history of the cause of God in the world is, and must be, the history of brave men, of those who are not ashamed of Him, or afraid of their fellow-men.
Times change; standards of orthodoxy vary; forms of persecution have their day and cease to be; but two things remain the same, the will and nature of God and the heart of mankind. Now and for ever, in this world, the fight against the devil is to be waged by the brave; by those who, like Daniel, believe not in themselves nor in their systems, but in God. If our first needful prayer is, “ Lord, increase our faith ;” the next is, “Lord, increase in us boldness,” that we may not fear what man can do to us, nor what man can say of us. And this latter
terror is as strong to influence many of us as the former was in the days of persecution which are passed away. We each of us live in a circle, more or less small, with the members of which we desire to live in harmony. We fear their ill opinion : with it we should feel lonely, and from this spiritual loneliness we all, by nature, shrink. We yearn for sympathy. It is no wrong feeling, no unholy desire. It is connected with that love, love of family, love of friends—which is a holy love; which we were placed upon earth to make more real, more true, and Christ-like. It is only false and dangerous when it is looked upon as the highest of our duties. To love father and mother is that affection, which is not the less spiritual because it is natural; but “he who loves father or mother more than me, is unworthy of me; cannot be my disciple.” When the affections come into conflict, the lower must yield; yield in faith that nothing is thereby lost, that the lower tie is only broken that it may be one day restored, and placed upon a diviner basis. And so the desire not merely for the good opinion, but for the sympathetic support of those who are about us, on whom we are dependent for most of the happiness of social life, is not in
itself a wrong desire. There is nothing more soothing, cheering, and helpful than religious sympathy. But we must be prepared to forego that pleasure and support when God calls us into some higher region of duty; when the Spirit who never ceases to speak to the soul of man makes His voice heard in ways that cannot be resisted. And, thanks to Him who fills our hearts with joy to see some great sacrifice achieved for His sake, we can admire those who have thus given up all for God. Our hearts leap up when we think of Daniel ; of Paul giving up family and friends because he could not be disobedient to the heavenly vision ; of the faithful in times since, of Wickliffe, of Savonarola, of Huss, of Latimer. Think what such men have had to yield; think of that loneliness which must have been theirs, when family and friends cast them off; called them heretic, presumptuous, God-forsaken. Think of the noble French preacher, who has so lately entered his protest against the course which those are taking who claim to define for him the will of God. He has learned that there is something, or some one, yet greater than his Church; that there is a God whose word he dares not ignore, whose voice he dares not reject. I am sure that the hearts of thousands have been stirred by the letter of this earnest man, who has been witnessing so many years among the pleasure-seeking and frivolous of a great city to a God of righteousness and purity. But, my brethren, let us be sure that our admiration arises from a just cause. Is it merely that he has set himself in opposition to a power whom we dislike and fear; is it merely because he is so far at accord with us? It is difficult, no doubt, to put on one side this reflection ; but let us rather be made humble by the thought, that were we his fellow-religionists we should probably be joining in the cry of “Down with him !” and that our present feeling is no guarantee that when next some far-seeing man shall arise among ourselves, believing in God with a firmer faith than ourselves, and witnessing against our corruptions of His truth, we shall not call him “atheist” and “blasphemer," and go on thanking God that we, at least, are faithful to the old paths. The hearers of Père Hyacinthe listen to his outspoken utterances, and cry, “This man does not preach the Church ;” and when an original man arises among ourselves, one who will not take his views from men, nor adopt the shibboleths of any party, we go our