FORTITUDE. BY THE VEN. ARCHDEACON FARRAR. Preached in Westminster Abbey, Nov. 16, 1884.
" If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with his sons ; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not ? " — Hebrews xii. 7.
I tried last Sunday to set forth the counsel and consolation of God in Scripture to a form of sorrow entirely unknown to vulgar and selfsatisfied souls, but very familiar to even the noblest of God's children — the feeling of weariness and despondency, the sadness of apparent failure in life's appointed work, the sense that we have " wrought no deliverance on the earth," and that we are not better than our fathers* I tried to bring home to all who are thus heavy laden that we have to work and to leave the issue of our work with God ; that we should try to do our duty and not to be troubled about its results ; that for good deeds there is no such thing as real or final failure ; that even as regards earth the cross of Christ is our pledge ; that what we take for utter failure may, in God's sight, be eternal victory. For that cross is a sign to us that even Christ's work seemed to fail ; thirty years of obscurity, one bright year of Galilean ministry, one year of gathering and deepening opposition, one year of excommunication and imperiled flight among the heathen and in obscure hiding places ; only twelve apostles, and one of them a traitor ; to be called a demoniac, a Samaritan, and a deceiver ; rejection in Galilee, rejection in Samaria, rejection in Judaea, rejection by the mob and the multitude, rejection by Pharisees and the
religious classes, rejection by Sadducees and worldlings, rejection by Herod and the princes, rejection by Caiaphas and the priesthood, rejection by Pilate and the government ; then the agony and the passion, the mocking and scourging and smiting and spitting, the false witness, the crown of thorns, the bitter cross between two thieves, the desertion by His own> the hiding — the seeming hiding — of His Father's countenance — that was
the life of Christ. And yet that life of Christ was the salvation of the world, and that cross of Christ is, as I said, the symbol of man's loftiest consolation and of man's eternal hope.
Now, from the sinlessness of Christ's Divine humanity it was impossible that the Son of God should be troubled by the clouded faith which is what we mean by despondency. Such despair, though even the noblest of mankind — even a Moses, even an Elijah, even a Paul — are not exempt from it, is yet a sign of human infirmity. But if He was exempt from every sorrow which has the least tinge of personal weakness, there was hardly another of life's many trials which the Lord Jesus did not bear, and, by bearing, lighten and brighten for us, His sons and servants. He was " not a High Priest who could not be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin ; " and this was why He could feel compassion for us,
and could cry, " Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."
" All ye that are weary and heavy laden." Would that appeal have touched, as it has touched, the hearts of mankind if the weary and heavy laden were but few in number ? Is there one of us who has passed the happy days of childhood and has not known one or the other of the numberless form of human anguish ? Might it not be said of any chance man whatever whom you picked out of this congregation that —
The bounding pulse, the languid limb,
The changing spirits rise and fall ; We know that these were felt by Him,
For these are felt by all ?
"We are born," said the unfortunate Montezuma — "let that come which must come." And what is that but what St. Paul wrote to Timothy, " No man should be moved by these afflictions, knowing that we are appointed thereunto ? " It is a part of the necessary discipline of the Divine training of life. God never afflicts us willingly, but only because such afflictions are indispensable in a thousand ways to our moral and spiritual being. And the manner in which we bear our sorrows is one of the tests of our faith in God. For these bitter arrows come from a gentle hand ; and if some of us suffer the wounds which they in-
flict to rankle even to the death, there are others who thank God even
for those wounds. David was perplexed because he saw the wicked in such prosperity — " They flourish like a green bay-tree." " They come into no misfortune like other folk, neither are they plagued like other men. And this is the cause, that they are so holden with pride, and overwhelmed, with cruelty." But God's treasures must be purified even in the furnace. The cherubim whose wings overshadowed in the Sanctuary the Ark of God could only be of the finest beaten gold, such as can be wrought and "tortured and fretted into most exquisite workmanship. " It is good for a man that he bear a yoke in his youth. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." It is among men and among women who have suffered all their lives long from sickness or from heavy trouble that we find the purest, the sweetest, the loveliest of human souls.
But if God sends us sorrow He also gives us the power of robbing sorrow of half its anguish and of all its bitterness. How different, for instance, is the incidence of trial to weak, complaining men who are thrown into paroxysms of spleen at the slightest inconvenience, and to men of manly firmness who can bravely bear the heaviest misfortunes ! The ancients reckoned that there were four cardinal virtues — justice,
prudence, temperance and fortitude. " I am a man," said Frederick the Great, " therefore born to sorrow ; but to the rigor of destiny I oppose my own constancy, and, menaced with shipwreck, I will breast the tempest, and think, and live, and die as a king." Now, how completely did our beloved Lord set us the calm example of heroic constancy ! Knowing all, looking down the dim, awful chasm, even to its utmost depths, He still set His face steadily to go to Jerusalem. " Master," said His disciples, " the Jews of late sought to stone Thee ; and goest Thou thither again ! Jesus answered, I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day." And how well His disciples learned the lesson ! Then said Thomas unto his fellow disciples, " Let us also go, that we may die with Him." Take the instance of ill-health, physical pain, the life-long trial of some personal deformity. Some men are hopelessly crushed by such a trial ; it becomes to them a clinging curse — not only the blight and effacement of their activity, but also the utter imbitterment of their whole souls ; but there are others to whose character such a drawback seems to add a singular bloom of strength, of modesty and of sweetness. So was it that St. Paul bore his " thorn in the flesh,"
which was probably a painful and disfiguring ophthalmia. Thrice he besought the Lord to take from him this " messenger of Satan " who buffeted him ; but when God had once said, " My strength is sufficient for
thee," he bore his burden like an indomitable man. There were men living in the last generation who remembered to have seen in the streets of Edinburgh two little lads, each of whom was lame with the life-long disaster of a clubbed foot. Each of those boys grew up to be a great man; but while the cheerful sweetness and simple nature of the one robbed the misfortune of all its sting, the other was soured by it into a pride and defiance which gave to all his life a morbid and miserable tinge. One of those lads was Sir Walter Scott ; the other was Lord Byron. The finest exhortation of the Latin poet —
Tu tie cede malts, sed contra audentior ito, Quam tua te fortuna sinet.
" Yield not thou to thy trials, but rather advance the more boldly whither thy fortune shall suffer thee " — what is it but the picture of a man, who, not corrupting the strength of heaven-descended will, triumphs over Fate, and Death, and Time ? What is it but the determination, even if the worst befalls, to work the work of Him who sent us while it is day? "What mean ye," said St. Paul, "to weep and to break mine heart ? for I am ready, not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus." Of the man who thus nobly and resolutely faces every trial it may be truly said —
He shall not dread misfortune's angry mein, Nor idly sink beneath her onset rude.
On Monday last, as you know, we held in this Abbey a funeral service for one who, by God's grace, set to the world in this respect an example conspicuously noble. Henry Fawcett, a Cabinet Minister, who has just been laid in his grave among so many tears, had been blind for thirty years — from early manhood. He was out shooting with his father, when by some strange chance — which is the nickname we give to God's unseen providence — a shot entered the pupil of each eye, and from that moment he was totally blind. Now, under such an overwhelming calamity, as, indeed, under many forms of heavy trial, most men lead a maimed life of repining bitterness ; but, young as he was, Henry Fawcett showed the world a noble example which will never be forgotten. By God's help he, from the very first, faced his catastrophe with a for-
titude which refused to succumb, and breasted undauntedly the blows of circumstance. He determined that he would still see with the inward eye of a brave heart and a pure soul. I stood next to him once a few years ago on a memorable occasion in the House of Lords ; the man who accompanied him was pointing out every incident and every person exactly as he would have done to one who was not thus afflicted. " There," he said, " sits that Royal Prince, and yonder sits such and such a statesman conversing with so-and-so." To each remark Mr. Fawcett answered, " Yes, I see ; " in point of fact he did see with the
eyes of a serene and cheerful imagination. Manful and uncomplaining, he lived all his life as a man, and even as a man not blind. He walked with the same swinging stride ; he fished in his native stream ; he pulled stroke in the boat of his college ; he skated for miles along the frozen river ; he lectured as a University Professor ; he rode fast in the streets of London ; he addressed without a tremor, tumultuous meetings ; he took an independent part as a politician; he displayed high administrative ability as a member of the Government. Blind, he never missed an opportunity of encouraging and helping the blind ; and it was a touching proof of the love which he had won by his kindness and sympathy, even among those not so afflicted, that many even of the female clerks and telegraph boys, whose interests as postmaster-general he had always considered, sent flowers and wreaths to lay upon his bier.
Other blind men have shown similar fortitude. The great Church Father, Didymus of Alexandria, became blind at four years old, and St. Jerome calls him videntum meum — " my seer." The blind old Dondolo of Venice was the leader of the Fourth Crusade ; and though ninety years of age he stood on the prow of his galley, and was the first man to leap ashore at the assault of Byzantium. The blind King of Bohemia had the bridle of his war-horse tied to those of two knights and rode into the thick of the fight to meet his doom at Crecy.
Ambrose Fisher, the blind scholar, as he is called, lies buried in our Eastern cloister ; and yonder is the bust of the immortal poet, who, like the Samson of which he sung,
Though fall'n on evil clays, • On evil days though fall'n, and evil tongues, In darkness, and with dangers compass'd round, And solitude,
yet with light denied him continued to do for God his day labor, and bated no jot of heart or hope, but still bore up and steered uphillward.
Well, with all these that faced thus bravely one of the direst of human calamities the name of Henry Fawcett will be numbered, and he having thus served God in his generation has received his sight. Is not this high courage under trial one of the lessons of Him who went to meet His cross, and sought by example to teach every true Christian man that to shrink, and to whine, and to complain, and to fill the world with shivering egotism, and splenetic murmurs, and jaundiced judgments, is the way of the coward, but that the virtue of the Christian is cheerful fortitude, and that it brings its own reward ?
But there are other ills of life which leave in us no undeveloped forces in reserve wherewith to meet them, and which being utterly past remedy
need submission rather than fortitude. Take the commonest of all — I mean bereavement. Ah, friends, there is one dark shadow which may at any moment fall over all who have hearts to love — it is the Shadow of Death ! Have not nearly all of you suffered this anguish which comes to each in turn ? Some of you have had wives whom you loved with all your hearts, and have had to cry,
Take, hallowed earth, all that my soul holds dear.
Some of you remember the mothers whose pure, intense affection was such as can never infold you again, and you have bent over a mother's grave. From some of you God has taken the children whom you dearly loved, your little boy or your little girl, your wee white rose of all the world; you have seen the damp sod laid over the little pale face and the dust strewn over the little golden head. Not a few men and women have suffered their lives to be utterly shattered by such a bereavement. They have not only gone mourning all their days, but have even been resentful against God. Has Scripture, my friends, no example for you ? Have ye never read how, when David's little child was taken he rose and eat bread, and said, " Now that he is gone, why should I weep ? can I bring him back again ? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." You know how, when Aaron's two eldest sons were smitten of God in early manhood, Aaron held his peace. You know how, when the poor lady of Shunam came to Elisha and he asked, " Sister, is it well with
thee ? is it well with thy husband ? is it well with the child ? " her boylay dead in his little room, but for all her heart was breaking, she answered, " It is well." You know how when to Ezekiel the prophet God said, " Son of man, behold I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke ; yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down ; " strong in God's strength, the prophet adds, " So I spake unto the people in the morning ; and at even my wife died; and I did in the morning as I was commanded." And Christians have learned this lesson of holy resignation. Famous are the pathetic words of Edmund Burke on the death of his beloved, his only son — " The storm has gone over me, and I lie like one of those old oaks which the late hurricane has scattered about me. I am stripped of all my honors. I am torn up by the roots, and lie prostrate on the earth, and prostrate there I most unfeignedly recognize the Divine justice, and in some sense submit to it." And this week, as you know, has added another memorial in this respect also to the Abbey, so fertile in the memory of great examples. On Thursday we placed in another transept the bust of Archibald Campbell Tait, the late Archbishop of Canterbury. You heard something about his work this morning. I will speak for one moment on one fact of his life. " God must love you very much," a friend once wrote to him, "to afflict you as He does." Five short weeks robbed him of five sweet little children, dear to him as the apple of his eye ; yet he bore up in the thought of Him who " shall gather the lambs with His arm, and
carry them in His bosom." But this was not all. He had a son, a very dear son, an only son, full of manly beauty and high promise. In the prime of his days, in the fullness of his happy hope, that son was cut off. Then the partner of his work, the wife who shared all his trials, sank broken-hearted into the grave ; but though he was old and so cruelly bereaved and worn in his Master's service, yet, resigned, unfaltering, faithful, diligent, yes, even cheerful to the end, he followed his Master, bearing his cross. We, my friends, are not bidden as Ezekiel was, to suppress our sorrows or to check the play of our natural tears. God does not lay on us the hard commands of stoic apathy. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, so that they should " Behold how He loved him." But He teaches us not to sorrow as those that have no hope. He teaches us to sob forth amid our tears with poor Eli, " It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth to Him good," and with stricken
Job, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord ! "
But, once more, there is another aspect of affliction altogether different from this, and sterner ; it is affliction coming as the natural result of misdoing, affliction not sent to perfect saints, but sent to punish sinners. Few, my brethren, indeed are the forms of human sorrow
which are not traceable to human sin. Always when God sends us sor" row we should deeply consider its message ; but the meaning becomes terribly emphatic when the waves of calamity are dashing against the waves of crime. Yet its message is most necessary and most merciful, for it is meant, then,- to save us ere it be too late, to cut us short in a career of pride or wickedness. And that is why the punishment so often bears a hideous resemblance or analogy to the sin by which it has been caused. Sorrow is, then, nothing else but sin finding us out. How often does a man secretly recognize that it is no accident which has filled his bones with the sins of his youth, that shall lie down with him in the grave ; how often does he know full well in his miserable heart that to his unlawful indulgences, to his drunkenness, to his forbidden passions, is due the poisoned blood which in various forms of disease or vice shall be the curse not only of himself, but of his innocent wife and of his children's children ! Oh, that all men would see that even in these awful forms it is the goodness of God which is calling him to repentance ! Thrice blessed he who can say with David, " It is good for me that I have been afflicted that I might learn Thy law ; before I was troubled I went wrong, but now have I kept Thy statutes." And how will that man bless his trials who has suffered those trials to lead him to the throne of grace, who can date his knowledge of his Saviour and the recovery of his peace to some dread stroke of merciful calamity ? Yes ; such trials are full of mercy, and of many it might be said as the poet wrote of the haughty Cardinal :
His overthrow heap'd happiness upon him ;
For then, and not till then, he felt himself, And found the blessedness of being little ; And, to add greater honors to his age Than man could give him, he died fearing God.
What, then, my brethren, is the conclusion of the whole matter ? It
is this. In this life affliction is just the common lot. We are born to suffer — to each his sufferings —
All are compelled alike to groan,
The tender for another's pain,
The unfeeling for his own.
" In the world," said our Lord, " ye shall have tribulation ; but," he added, " be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. I have overcome the world, and, therefore, have overcome the sin with which it is rife, and the inevitable sorrow which that sin entails." He overcame the world that we might overcome it, too ; therefore we are meant to face affliction with fortitude which may lessen it, with resignation which
may humbly endure it, and, also, always with a repentance which, perhaps, here, and certainly hereafter, may make it needless for evermore. The very best of us all need repentance — yea, our very repentance needs to be repented of, our very tears want washing. But how much more is this true of those who have been ungodly, willful, willing, defiant sinners ? Oh, if any of you are now living in high-handed iniquity, walking after your own heart's lust, adding for your own pleasure (it may be with calculating prudence) to the evils and miseries which you try to shield yourselves from, and letting the consequences of them fall on others, determining to enjoy what sin can offer, and thinking vainly to escape the consequences, forgetting that retribution is but sin at a later stage of its history, and that punishment is but sin taken a little lower down the stream, do not harden yourself in evil courses because you only now see that punishment is belated and has leaden feet, and have not yet experienced that it strikes with iron hand ! And you, on the other hand, who, though you have wished to serve God, though you have determined that even if the worst befell you, you will still be kind and true, and pure, are yet unfortunate, and, as it were, beaten in the world ; surrounded by clouds in which you see no silver lining, for whom the present offers little happiness, and the future not any hope — be not envious of evil-doers, think not that God is dealing harshly with you if you see other men, guilty and careless, yet, apparently untroubled ; prosperity is often very far indeed from being a sign of God's favor. The purple of Nero, the wealth of Herod, the banquet of Dives, the military pomp of Pilate— which were blessed ? — these or the chains of Paul, the sores of Lazarus, the tears of the Magdalen, the
Cross of Christ ? That is good for us — yea, and that is best for us — which makes us best, and that is not always by any means the world's sunshine. It is the fair day which brings forth the adder, and the prosperity of fools destroys them. Souls inherently vile and base, bristling in the sunshine of unmerited fortune, swell and glisten with the venom which success brings forth. Oh, let none of you forget that often God's worst punishment is not to punish ! Punishment may be a proof that we are not yet reprobate, that we are not having our good things in this world, that the dreadful fiat has not yet gone forth, " Ephraim is turned unto idols ; let him alone."
And therefore, brethren, in all your sorrows be comforted ; bear them bravely, bear them meekly, look upon them as a sign not of God's wrath, but of His love, calling you unto Him. How will you thank God hereafter for those trials if they lead you nearer and bind you closer to Himself ! Christ suffered for you that they might do so. Above all, when your trouble means deserved punishment, means necessary awakenment, means not only the chastisement of a son, but the chastisement of a rebellious and a prodigal and a wandering son, then you may gain from those trials nothing less than your salvation. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus : " Thou hast chastised
me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yokes, turn Thou me, and I shall be turned ; for Thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented ; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh." And then God adds immediately afterward, " Is Ephraim My dear son ? is he a pleasant child ? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still ; therefore My heart is troubled for him ; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." Such has been in sorrow the merciful experience of many, as it was of the much afflicted poet :
I was a stricken deer that left the herd
Long since ; with many an arrow deep infixed
My panting side was charged ; when I withdrew
To seek a tranquil death in distant shades.
There was I found by One who had Himself
Been hurt by archers. In His side He bore,
And in His hands and feet, the cruel scars.
With gentle force, soliciting the darts,
He drew them forth, and healed, and bade me live.
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