THE SOLDIER AND HIS
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to
Him, asking for help. "Lord," he said, 'my servant lies at home paralyzed
and in terrible suffering." Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him."
Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10
"The Sun of Righteousness" had arisen on "Galilee of the
Gentiles," the region and shadow of death, with "healing in His wings." From
the summit of the Mount of Beatitudes, ''to the poor" the Gospel
had been preached. On the plain and its base, or by the shores of the
Lake, a Leper had been cleansed. And now, no sooner had the Divine
Philanthropist entered "His own city," (Capernaum) than a new suitor is at
His feet. A Roman officer, whose servant was stretched on a bed of pain and
death, comes to receive fresh proof of the Divine benediction, so recently
uttered—"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."
Let us look, first, to THE SUPPLIANT'S PREVIOUS HISTORY.
He was "a Centurion," or captain in the army of Herod,
stationed with a hundred men under his command in the barracks at Capernaum.
We know nothing as to how long he had been resident in this town of Galilee.
While there, however, he had become a Gentile proselyte to Judaism. In his
communion with the Jewish mind, he had been led to a knowledge of the true
God. The bewildering Polytheism, the ancestral Religion of his own land,
into which he had been initiated in youth, with its "lords many and gods
many"—the heartless vices and growing profligacy of Roman manners—contrasted
unfavorably with the sublime simplicity of the worship of Israel's one
Jehovah, and the lofty morality inculcated by the Mosaic law. Had religion
been with him merely a stepping-stone in professional advancement—life a
struggle for pay and place—to stand well at the government Palace of
Caesarea and Tiberias, he had only to become the flatterer of Herod, to
swear by the gods of Olympus and the Capitol, and plunge into the vices of
these libertine courts.
But in that vast Roman empire, God was preparing many
minds for a kingdom whose glory and vastness the Caesar had never dreamed
of. One of these "hidden ones" was this Capernaum soldier. He looked beyond
the glitter and pageantry of earthly pomp and power to more enduring
realities, and sought to have the yawning chasm of his heart's deep
necessities filled with the great, the good, and the true. The simple yet
sublime revelations of the Hebrew theology had thrown a flood of light on
his path, and resolved many perplexities and doubts, whose solution he had
vainly sought in his own mythological systems. An alien by birthright, he
became by faith a child of Abraham; a stranger and foreigner, he had become
a fellow-citizen with the household of God; and, better still, he lived
under the influential power of that religion which he had espoused as his
We are called upon here to observe, very notably in his
case, how true Piety ennobles and elevates the character.
Moralities—native virtues and amiabilities, indeed, may exist independent of
religion, but these are purified and sanctified by grace. Religion dignifies
the whole man. A landscape beautiful in itself, is glorified by sunlight.
Natural virtues may, in themselves, be lovely and of good report; but when
the soul in its actions and motives is pervaded and renovated by grace, it
is like that same landscape bathed in sunshine, sparkling with a glory and
beauty never possessed before. Thus did the fear of God operate in the case
of this centurion. It made him a better Man, a better Friend, a better
Master, and perhaps a better Soldier too.
Let us look to two of these attributes as illustrated in
the narrative we are now considering.
(1.) He was A GOOD NEIGHBOR. "He loves our nation, and
has built us a synagogue;" or, literally, "He has built the
synagogue for us." Rooted out, was the hatred and scorn with which pagan
nations regarded the nation of Israel. But this man had been taught, for its
own and "the Fathers' sakes," to love it; and he gave the most substantial
proof of the reality of this affection, for in the center of Capernaum, or
close by the shores of the lake, rose conspicuous the one Synagogue
of the town—a strange and untypical memorial for a Gentile Roman to raise at
his own expense.
See here how religion makes the soul unselfish!
Many a man, if he is personally faring well, is indifferent how his neighbor
or the world fares. Perhaps unloved and uncared for himself, he thinks there
is the less claim upon him, to love or care for others. He is in the midst
of those who have no great claims upon him. He is too glad for the excuse or
apology for steering clear of what would touch his means, or invade his
time, or burden him with new cares and responsibilities. It is the old plea,
"Am I my brother's keeper?" "No! I will live for myself—I will clutch my
gold the faster, and die amid hoards of plenty. I am a Gentile—the blood of
old Romulus is in my veins—the memory of a proud line of heroes is my
heirloom. What do I care for these dogs, the Jews, these bigot Hebrews? I
shall do Caesar's work, and pocket Caesar's pay. I shall build my villa on
this lake, and have my yacht on its waters. I shall put to shame Herod's
attendants in the luxuries of my table, and the splendors of my retinue.
What concern have I with these barbarians of Galilee? I am sent to curb
their turbulent spirit. I will render to Caesar the things that are
Caesar's. What have I to do with rendering to their God the things that are
So speak many now; but this great and good Centurion did
neither think nor act this way. He had riches, and he would use these
riches, not for self or sin, but for the glory of that great Being he had
been led to revere. After consecrating his own soul as a living temple of
faith, and love, and grateful obedience, he had raised up a sanctuary where
his poorer fellow citizens might serve the God of their fathers, and where
they might read and hear that law which had made him wiser and better than
all his heathen teachers. The Roman soldier was sent to repress and
subjugate by the sword; but the sword was sheathed, and he conquered by the
weapon of kindness. He loved the nation he had been taught from his infancy
to hate, and the God he served was now about to make good in his experience
the old promise, "Those who bless Israel, I will bless."
Himself and his servant being both heathens by birth, he
felt as if he dared not personally approach the great Jewish Teacher. But he
asks and willingly obtains the intervention of the elders of the city. He
had proved to them a kind neighbor and generous benefactor. They are glad
now for an opportunity to reciprocate his offices of regard. Though his
presence in their town as an officer of the Roman army was a badge of their
political servitude and degradation, yet the law of gratitude and love
triumphs over all party jealousies and national animosities. They joyfully
undertake the task of mediators, and hurry with his errand to the Savior's
feet. The words of Jesus that morning on the Mount of Beatitudes had
scarcely died away, when they received, in the case of the Centurion, a
touching fulfillment—"Love your enemies, do good to them without expecting
to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons
of the Most High."
(2.) He was A KIND MASTER. The Synagogue-building might
have been a piece of Roman ostentation—the monument which a vain man
had erected in a foreign land to perpetuate his name, and secure for himself
a brief remembrance. It might have been even worse: it might have been
erected by the old Roman on the principle of later Romanists—as the price of
a monster "indulgence," a sop with which to quiet conscience and hush
suspicion, in the midst of vice, extortion, and profligacy. But far
different was it in his case. The external deeds of generosity and
munificence had their counterpart in goodness of heart and a holy life.
We follow him within the sacred threshold of his own
homestead. It is all that we could have expected—in happy conformity with
his public character. The love whose field was the Jewish nation, had its
center and focus in the domestic hearth. It is, indeed, a beautiful and
touching picture which is here presented to us: an Officer seated by the
bedside of his suffering servant, who was racked with torturing pain,
"grievously tormented"—"ready to die."
Death at all times is a solemn thing. Who better able
to brave it than was the iron soldier of old Rome, familiar with it as he
was, under its most fearful forms? But it is one thing to face it in the
hour of battle—boldly to die a hero's death—and another to watch the slow
and stealthy footstep of the grim Destroyer, as he creeps into our loved
circles, and threatens to drag endeared residents down to the abode of
everlasting silence. That ghastly enemy confronts him now face to
face, and threatens to sweep away "one dear to him" (or, as the word means,
"highly valued"). Though that valued one was but a slave, occupying a
different relation to his Roman master from what the British servant does to
a British master, we may well come and sit at the feet of this "Good
Centurion," and learn lessons of kindness and affection to our inferiors
Is there not a solemn reproof and reprimand to many a
master and mistress, in the tear that stood in that Centurian's eye, and the
heaving emotions that struggled for utterance in his bosom, as he sat, night
by night, at the couch of his slave, and sought by word and deed to
alleviate his sufferings? Pure and undefiled religion before God, led him to
stoop to these offices of lowly love. That blessed Redeemer, at whose feet
he was about to cast himself, illustrated, at a subsequent period of His
ministry, by a significant act, this duty of condescension and kindness—He
washed His disciples' feet. He told them to "go and do likewise;" and His
whole gospel breathes the precept, "Condescend to men of low estate."
Let Christian masters come to this house in Capernaum,
and study the living picture there presented for imitation. The Roman
officer felt that a solemn tie which neither God nor nature, nor the
memories of years, would allow him to treat lightly, bound him to that dying
slave. He might, as thousands of old did, and as many do still, profit by
the toil of their dependents during the best period of their lives, and
then, in sinking health or failing strength, turn them adrift on a cold and
cheerless world, stripping them of comforts at the very time these are most
needed. We fear that in our own day such cases are to be found; that not a
few are verily guilty in this respect concerning their lowly brother or
sister. If, amid the pitiless storms and biting cold of winter, we left our
own home comforts, and visited many black and smoldering firesides in our
vicinities, is it uncharitable to ask, Would no master or mistress stand
rebuked at the bar of conscience and of God, by the disregarded prayer
trembling on quivering lips—"Do not cast me away when I am old; do not
forsake me when my strength is gone"? Past fidelity is not thus to be
But it was not so with the Centurion of Capernaum and his
trusty dependent. He cherishes the remembrance of years on years of
faithful, unremitting service; and now he will change places for a time with
the helpless sufferer; he will be himself as one that serves, bending over
that anguished pillow in offices of affection and solicitude.
Happy would it be for social life did Religion, more than
it does, thus sanctify and hallow the bond uniting servant and master!—the
Servant working under the lofty Christian motive, "I serve the Lord Christ;"
the Master, knowing and remembering that he has a "Master also in
heaven"—the spirit at least remaining of Boaz' salutation to his servants as
they reaped his fields at Bethlehem: He meeting them with the benediction,
"The Lord bless you!" and they responding, "The Lord bless you!"
Such, then, is a glimpse into the character—the public
and private life—of the man who now sent the urgent message to the Savior in
behalf of his servant, and who follows up the mission of the elders of the
city by leaving the sickbed he was tending, and prostrating himself at the
Lord's feet. We wait with anxiety to learn the particulars of this
Let us look, first, to the Centurion's address
to the Savior. Two things are very observable in his conduct and
I. Observe his HUMILITY—"Lord, I am not worthy that
You should come under my roof." What words for a proud Roman to address
to a poor Jew! The elders had just a little before, reached Jesus with the
centurion's message, enforcing it with the plea, that he was worthy
for whom He should do this. But different is the humble Officer's own
estimate: he felt that he was a "sinner of the Gentiles"—an alien from the
commonwealth of Israel—having no heritage in the covenant promises and the
temporal blessings therein included.
But he felt more than this. The deep things of God's law
had been revealed to his inquiring spirit. He was convinced of the
deficiency and defilement of his best obedience and holiest deeds, and with
no disguised, or false, or counterfeit humility, he bends in lowliest
abasement before "THE Holy One." A higher wall of separation than the
old conventional one between Jew and Gentile, separated between him and
Infinite purity. He had, doubtless, become familiar with the person and
character of the Savior from His teachings and miracles in and around
Capernaum. It may be, in the sumptuous synagogue which his own generosity
had reared, he had himself been spectator of the cure of the Demoniac. He
must, doubtless, have heard of the miraculous catch of fish. He must have
witnessed the results, at least, of that wondrous Sabbath evening, when
disease, which in the morning had flapped its gloomy wings over many a
household, at sunset fled by His mighty mandate away. It is more than
likely, in his rank and position, that he knew the nobleman whose son in the
same city had recently experienced the might of Christ's omnipotent word.
Would not the same Power that raised a son, raise a Roman bond-slave? Was he
not approaching One who knew no distinction between Jew and Greek,
barbarian, Scythian, bond or free?
It is, indeed, a lovely impersonation of Humility, to see
this offspring of proud Rome—a captain in her armies—one of those accustomed
to wear contempt on his lip whenever the name of "Jew" was mentioned—laying
aside the pride of name and rank and nation; forgetting that he had stood
among the martial legions in Rome, or sat a guest at Herod's table;
accustomed ever to command, seldom to obey; rushing now, in the extremity of
his unselfish sorrow, to the feet of the homeless Savior—the carpenter's
Son—the Companion of fishermen!
But while "God resists the proud," He "gives grace to the
humble." "He who humbles himself shall be exalted." That half-heathen
worshiper and suppliant has his brow at this hour wreathed with laurel,
which survives in imperishable glory; while the garlands of Roman triumphs
and victors have faded into decay, and left no trace behind. He has a
monument in the hearts of all loving Masters, and faithful Servants, and
humble-hearted Christians. For "wherever the gospel is preached in all the
world," there shall this, that this Roman officer has done, be told as a
memorial of him.
II. The second feature notable (most notable) in
the Centurion's conduct, is his FAITH. Whenever there is Humility, there is
the companion grace of Faith; as a tree sends its branches upwards in
proportion as it strikes its roots downwards; so in proportion as a
man is deep in humility, is he "strong in faith, giving glory to God."
The remarkable feature in this grace of the Centurion,
and which drew such a tribute regarding it from the lips of Omniscience, was
that for the effecting of his servant's cure, he solicited from Jesus,
nothing but a word. Unlike the nobleman who journeyed to Cana, and
begged Jesus to "come down" to Capernaum and heal his son (imagining that
the personal presence of the Healer by the sick-bed was indispensable), this
Centurion requested no more than the mere utterance of the will of
Omnipotence. He who of old said, amid brooding chaos, "Let there be light,"
had now but to give forth the mandate, Let there be Life, and
returning health would mantle the cheeks, and the palsied hands be clasped
in grateful thanksgiving.
Observe, too, as an interesting feature in the
Centurion's Faith, it took its color and character from his Soldier-life—"FOR,"
he adds, "I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me."
"I am myself a subordinate—I am used to obeying the Tribune to my superior
officer; and the soldiers of my company, in a similar way, give prompt
obedience to my orders. I say to this man go, and he goes; to another come,
and he comes; and to my servant do this, and he does it."
The application of the appeal is evident: "If I, in this
my worldly calling, have only in the name of Caesar to speak and it is
done—I believe, Lord, it is much more so with You. Sickness and
Disease are Your appointed messengers; they are Servants executing Your
dictates; they come and go at Your command; this palsy now chaining my
servant down to his bed—bid it flee away: trouble not Yourself to come and
touch—but even here, in this open street, utter the healing word, and I know
the result—my servant shall be healed."
We may well cease to wonder at Christ calling this
great faith. Faith deals with the distant, the unseen, the palpable, the
intangible. It has been well defined, "the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen." Men are ever craving for the evidence of
sense and sight; the word of Thomas is one natural to these earthly hearts
of ours, "Except I SEE. . . I shall not believe." But "Blessed," said the
Lord, "are those who have not seen, and yet have believed." We, in this age
of the Church, are in the position of that sick Servant at Capernaum. To the
eye of sense we are separated from the Savior. We see Him not—we can
touch Him not—the hand cannot slip amid the crowd to catch His garment
hem—we cannot hear His loved footsteps as of old on our thresholds; but
Faith penetrates the invisible; the messenger, Prayer, meets Him in the
streets of the New Jerusalem; and Faith and Prayer together, the twin
delegates from His Church below, He has never yet sent empty away.
Reader, go in the spirit of that Faith to Him; believe in
what He has done and what He is still willing to do. Go, and like the
Centurion, beseech Him "immediately." Make the most of fleeting
opportunities. Beware of abused responsibilities. Do not wait and linger
until you effect some preliminary preparation. "Just as you are," with no
posture but that of humility, and no prayer but the prayer of faith, cast
yourself at His feet, saying, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" And the
greater the measure of your faith, the larger and more munificent will be
the recompense. Jesus tells the Centurion-suppliant that the answer given
will be commensurate with the degree of his faith—"As you have believed, SO
be it done to you."
Having considered the feelings manifested by the Roman
Centurion in addressing Jesus in behalf of his sick servant, turn we now to
the Savior's comment on the conduct of this noble-minded Centurion, and to
those practical lessons with which the subject is replete.
He announces, in connection with this remarkable display
of faith, The bringing in of the Gentile nations, "Truly I say to
you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say to
you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with
Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven."
This Roman soldier was the first-sheaf of a mighty
harvest yet to be reaped from heathen lands—the first-fruits of that vast
quarter of the globe where Christianity was after-ages to set up its banners
and gather its noblest trophies. In the case of the miraculous cure on the
Leper, Jesus, it will be remembered, "touched" him. That leper was a
Jew—a Hebrew by birth; the "touching" him, may be seen as emblematic of the
Savior's coming into personal contact with those of His own nation—"He came
to His own," though "His own received Him not." In the case of the present
miracle, however, there was no immediate or personal contact with the
subject of it. The Savior spoke the distant word and the Roman slave
was cured. May not this have been designed as emblematic of those far off
Gentiles and Gentile nations, millions on millions, who were never
permitted, like Israel, to gaze on the Incarnate God, but who were, in
after-ages, to experience the power and potency of His miraculous word and
"Many shall come and shall sit down with Abraham!"
This is surely a startling utterance to these Galileans; only surpassed by
this Jewish Prophet and Teacher turning round and commending openly to the
crowd, the faith of a Gentile as surpassing that even of the "peculiar
people." He prefaces it with the word that marks something strange and
unaccustomed, "truly I say to you." Strange, indeed, to Jewish ears
it was! That leper, miserable spectacle though he was, was descended from
Abraham. He had the accents of the Hebrew tongue hanging on his lips—he
might be able to point, as most Jews were, in the absence of any other
heritage, to the sepulcher where lay the ashes of his fathers: but here was
a ROMAN—the synonym of Enmity, Oppression, Profligacy—for, along with their
conquering standards they had imported to the shores of that quiet Lake the
crimes and vices of the capital.
Could it be that such wild olive-branches were to
be grafted into the native olive branch? that these Gentile wanderers are to
be gathered by the Good Shepherd into one fold? these peoples so diverse,
and for so long considered so antagonistic, to be fused into one mass, and
that out of this mass there is to arise the Church of the future?
Yes! and this Roman officer and his slave are selected as the first of these
"children of God scattered abroad" who are to sit down with Abraham, and
Isaac, and Jacob in the new kingdom—the children of Abraham's faith,
partakers in Abraham's promise, and finally to be sharers in Abraham's
There are many important reflections suggested by
this memorable incident—we can only refer to two of these.
First, we are again taught the often repeated
Scripture lesson, that in every profession and occupation of life, a man
may serve God. How often are people apt to plead their professions and
worldly engagements as an apology for ungodliness! "I might have been a
Christian," say many, "but for this adverse position in which I am placed in
business. I might have been following a mother's teachings, and reaping the
blessings of a mother's prayers; but, cast where I am, it is vain to think
of a holy walk. I am, by a sad necessity, denied the happiness of a
How different it was with this Roman Centurion! Not only,
soldier as he was, did he fear God; but, it is very observable, he fed and
nurtured his faith from his military habits and experience. The old
discipline and training of a Camp-life read to him a high spiritual lesson
in approaching Christ. "For I am a man set under authority."
Ah, it is beautiful when a man thus makes his trade or
profession, whatever it be, suggestive of spiritual incentives and motives
of action! David, in the most imperishable of poems, made his Shepherd-life
beautifully to shadow forth his covenant relation to God, beholding in "the
green pastures" and "still waters" to which he led his flock, a peaceful
image of spiritual safety and repose. Listen to the apostle Paul, "the
tentmaker," toiling with his own hands at the goats' hair canvass that he
"might be chargeable to no man"—as he suspends his manual labor to write an
epistle to the Church at Corinth, he borrows from his rustic occupation
encouragement for their hearts and his own, with regard to more
enduring "tents"—"For we know that when this house of our earthly tent
is taken down, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens." Or, at a later period, "I am an ambassador in
bonds," said he, as he wrote with the heavy iron fettering his hand; but
the chain suggests the glorious contrast, "the word of God is not bound."
And thus, every profession may become suggestive of such and similar
Is it the Husbandman? He can read in the golden
Harvest undying type and pledge of spiritual blessings as the result of
faith and earnest diligence in the heavenly husbandry, that "in due season
we shall reap if we faint not."
Is it the Sailor? Every wave that wafts him nearer
the harbor may remind him of the vaster Voyage on which he is embarked, and
warn him of the treacherous storms, and tell of the glorious security of the
Is it the Physician? He is reminded, amid
complicated troubles which perplex his experience and baffle his skill, of a
Physician who, in a more inveterate trouble, can heal "all diseases."
Is it the Merchant? He is reminded by the very
vicissitudes of trade—the ebbings and flowings in the tide of prosperity—of
the need of securing an interest in a better possession, and more enduring
riches than earth can give.
Is it the Soldier? He hears mightier bugle-notes
sounding to arms, "It is high time to awake out of sleep, for now is your
salvation nearer than when you believed!" He is reminded of a more gigantic
battle-plain than the world's conflicting hosts ever occupied—and the need
there is of taking to himself "the whole armor of God; and fighting the good
fight of faith, and laying hold of eternal life."
It is striking to note that the first Gentile convert
welcomed to the new spiritual kingdom—the first Gentile whose prayer was
heard and whose slave was healed—was a European Officer—the first of
a noble army who have, in after-ages, joined the ranks of the faithful.
It is interesting, moreover, to know that he was not the
only officer in the service of Caesar, who, at this era of the world, and in
Palestine, was brought to fear God. We have another of similar rank—the
centurion spoken of at the dreadful terminating scene of Gospel story, who,
gazing up on the meek countenance of the Crucified, exclaimed, "Truly this
is the Son of God!" We read in a subsequent period of "Cornelius, a
centurion of the band called the Italian band," quartered with his men at
the seat of government at Caesarea, that he was "a devout man, and one that
feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed
to God always."
We know how the apostle Paul, in his final imprisonment
in Rome, melted the iron hearts of Nero's Imperial Guard. The very soldiers
between whom the chained prisoner slept were touched, by his sublime
patience, his fervid prayers, his unflinching courage, his glorious hopes.
Thanks be to God, the army has never been without
its number of "the good soldiers of Jesus Christ," from the time of this
Roman centurion on the Lake of Galilee, down to the hour when Hedley Vicars
was consigned to his grave in the Crimean Sea, and Henry Lawrence to his
Indian grave. Brave hearts, unflinching in the hour of duty and death, have
loved to cast their swords and shields at the foot of the Cross, and to
glory, far above earthly triumphs, in that of the Roman, "This is the
victory which overcomes the world, even our faith."
We have thought of that Roman Centurion in connection
with his Faith and Kindness and Humility on earth. We may think of
him at this moment—the battle of life long ago ended—the sword long
ago slumbering in its scabbard—the watch-fires of the nightly encampment
quenched forever—the trumpet of battle hung mute in the heavenly
halls—seated as a fellow-guest with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and the
noble army of prophets and patriarchs, apostles and martyrs, in the kingdom
of glory—clothed in white robes, with the palms of a better and nobler
VICTORY in their hands!
We may learn, as a second lesson, that Great
Faith is fostered in the midst of difficulties. It would only be to
rehearse what we have already said, to show that this pre-eminent Faith of
the Centurion was so reared and nurtured.
The fact of being a Roman by birth; a Pagan in
religion; a Soldier by profession—formed a threefold impediment
in the path of his spiritual life. But he manfully counted the cost, and,
not only was victory obtained, but when he laid the spoils at his Lord's
feet, that Savior declared that Israel had need to blush for their
faith, when placed side by side with that of the Gentile stranger.
It is of the very nature of Faith to grow in the midst of
trials and obstacles! The greatest spiritual heroes of the past—those
whose faith culminated highest—are those who "subdued kingdoms, stopped the
mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire." Plunge them into the deep,
like the fabled hydra they seem to rise with renovated energy.
Noah's faith, how wondrous! battling against the
taunts and ridicule of a scoffing world, and standing alone to buffet the
storm for 120 years.
Abraham's faith was strongest in his most trying
hour, when the son of his prayers—the child of promise—was doomed to perish
by his own hand.
The faith of the eleven Disciples was never more
remarkable than when returning orphaned and bereaved from the Mount of
Ascension—Him whom they most loved, vanished from their sight—left to battle
an alien world alone! Yet, we read, "they returned to Jerusalem with great
Paul's faith never was stronger or more glorious than
when the aged man was fettered in his dungeon, with almost certain death
impending. "Nevertheless, I am not ashamed, for I know in whom I have
believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have
committed unto Him."
And every martyr at the stake, and every
missionary in his gigantic task, has to bear the same testimony, that it
was when the tempest was highest, and the battle loudest, they were "strong
in faith, giving glory to God." The Oak is rooted firmest and
fastest, that has been nurtured, not amid quiet climates and in the
sheltering valley, but high on the mountainside where it has had to wrestle
with the storm. That is not vigorous training for the rower, when
resting on his oar, his boat is borne down the descending stream. But his is
the hardened sinew and brawny arm whose bark has to face the fiercest
current, and struggle with contending wind and tide.
The great man and master-mind was once the boy at school,
who bravely encountered difficulty and disadvantage; who wept hot tears over
the baffling task, and dried them not until he conquered impediments,
gaining mental and moral courage every step in his ascending way. So it is
in the higher spiritual struggle. Bunyan's Christian, who scrambled and ran
up the "Hill Difficulty," was found asleep on the Enchanted ground."
Do not be downcast, then, if difficulties and trials
surround you in your heavenly life. They may be purposely placed there by
God, to train and discipline you for higher developments of faith. If He
calls you to "toiling in rowing," it may be to make you the hardier
seaman—to lead you to lift up the hands which hang down and the feeble
knees, and, above all, to drive you to a holier trust in Him who has the
vessel and its destinies in His hand, and who, amid gathering clouds and
darkened horizon, and crested billows, is ever uttering the mild rebuke to
our misgivings—"Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the
glory of God?"