1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Watch you, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.…
I. PAUL HERE APPEALS TO THE INSTINCT OF COURAGE. In becoming Christians we do not cease to be men.
1. Courage lies midway between timidity and recklessness. In matters of daring there is a deficiency which is cowardice, and an excess which is foolhardiness.
(1) Timidity is common. Many shrink from pain, fly from danger, and in matters of principle more afraid of man that shall die than of God who must judge.
(2) Foolhardiness is common. What mad prank cannot a schoolboy be dared to do? Who has not been culpably indifferent to health, influence, and character? But often the foolhardy is a coward. The man who will undermine his constitution by vice is afraid of infection. We refuse to either of these the sacred name of instinct. They are perversions, distortions of nature.
2. Nature is brave. Nowhere is cowardice honoured.
(1) Greeks and Romans had but one word for courage and virtue. The coward in battle had better not return to face either his country or his home. The man who left wife or child a prey to violence or fire was henceforth an outlaw.
(2) Courage is the idol of the young. It is this which underlies the hero worship of the river, the course, the field.
(3) Nor will either young or old, so long as England is free or Europe Christian, fail to honour the sincerity that must speak the truth, and the conscience that would go to the stake for duty.
3. Yet courage has its abuses.
(1) There is an intellectual foolhardiness seen in the upsetting of established convictions, the inversion of established convictions, the establishment of some exploded error. Many heresies have sprung out of intellectual bravery. It has seemed so manly to contradict traditions and beliefs. But there is a mental audacity as perilous as and more culpable than that which flings away life in Alpine climbing or in the circus or hunting field.
(2) The same false courage has a more fatal place in things spiritual. What is it that sends the young traveller without arms, map, or guide on the journey of life? What is it that induces one who has been vanquished fifty times on a particular battlefield of temptation to try his chance there again? It was this instinct of courage that Satan appealed to in the wilderness. He had found it in its perversion in the fallen, but not in the perfect Man.
4. Though there is an instinct of courage in us, there are many counteracting instincts, insomuch that it must be, practically, either a rare gift, or else an acquired grace.
(1) Few soldiers probably go into the battle eager for the fray. The very faith of our immortality forbids it.
(2) We reverence and ought to reverence more the grace than the gift. If we know a person naturally sensitive, delicately organised, we admire far more in that person acquired courage, than the stolid acquiescence of one who has neither brain to throb, nor nerve to quiver. Christ's courage was of this nobler, less constitutional kind, as we see from His natural shrinking from death, and yet His persistence in the path of sacrifice.
II. CHRIST SATISFIES THIS INSTINCT —
1. Of physical courage by showing in Himself how they who may have not the gift may have the grace. Wonderful has been the issue. Witness the martyrs. But excitement of love, hate, bigotry, etc., have had their martyrs. But there is a courage unsupported by excitement and sympathy, in the strength of which Christians have endured in unmurmuring patience lifelong pains, want, etc.
2. Of moral courage. There is nothing in Christ's character more pervasive than this. We see it in His fearless antagonism to the doctors of His age. He dared to speak the truth regardless of consequences. And thus He taught us courage. He bade us never fear truth — a thing necessary to remember in the face of the present attitude of Faith and Science. The moral courage which He showed in His teaching He also showed in His conduct; and it is here that we want most to cultivate it. Think of His solemn warnings against moral cowardice. How He bade us not be ashamed of Him and His words, and not to fear them who kill the body.
3. Of spiritual courage.
(1) The courage of enterprise and aggression.
(2) The courage of resistance.
Parallel VersesKJV: Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.