With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:…
I. BE STRONG IN FAITH. Be quite sure that you do believe; be quite clear what you believe, and then show your faith strongly. Oar faith is not built on sand, but on a rook. It is not founded on such words as - perhaps, I suppose, I hope. No, the Creed of the Church says, "I believe." Be ready to give a reason for the faith that is in you.
II. BE STRONG IN YOUR LANGUAGE. When Lord Nelson was going into his last battle, they wished him to cover, or lay aside, the glittering orders of victory which adorned his breast. But the hero refused, and perhaps his refusal cost him his life. Well, let us never hide the marks of our profession as Christian soldiers; even if we have to suffer, let men know that we bear about in our bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus.
III. BE STRONG IN SELF-SACRIFICE FOR JESUS. We must not forget our cross. Let me tell you the stories of two simple servant maids who, under very different circumstances, gave up their life for the life of little children. The scene of the first story was in America, nearly five and twenty years ago; that of the second story was in London, quite recently. A young English girl had taken service in a family going to America, and her special duty was the charge of the three motherless children of her widowed master. One cold day in December they all embarked in a great Mississippi steamboat bound for the far Northwest. Day after day they steamed through the swollen river, where pieces of ice were already showing, past dark and gloomy shores, lined with lonely forest. One night, near the end of their voyage, the girl had seen her charges, two girls and a boy, safely asleep, and now, when all the other passengers had retired, she was reading in the saloon. Suddenly the silence was broken by a terrible cry, which told the frightened passengers that the steamboat was on fire. The captain instantly ran the vessel for the shore, and ordered the people to escape as best they could, without waiting to dress. The faithful servant had called her master, and then carried the children from their beds to the crowded deck. Quickly the blazing vessel touched the muddy bank, and the father placed the shivering children and the servant on one of the huge branches which overhung the river. A few other passengers, fifteen in all, reached other branches, the rest went down with the burning steamer. But what hope could there be for the children, just snatched from their warm beds, and now exposed unclad to the bitter December night? Their father had no clothing to cover them, and, as he spoke of another steamer which would pass by in the morning, he had little hope of his children holding out. Then the servant maid declared that if possible she would keep the little ones alive. Clinging in the darkness to the icy branches, she stripped off her own clothing, all but the thin garment next her body, and wrapped up the shivering children. Thus they passed the long, dark hours of that terrible night. I know not what prayers were spoken, but I know that Jesus, who suffered cold and hunger for our sakes, made that servant girl strong to sacrifice herself. During the night one of the children died, but in the morning, when the first light came, the little girls were still alive. Then, when her work was done, the freezing limbs of the brave girl relaxed their hold, a deadly sleep fell on her, and she dropped silently into the rushing river below. Presently a steamer came in sight, and the two children for whom she had died were safe. Only quite lately there was a great fire in London. In the burning house were a husband and wife, their children, and a servant maid. The parents perished in the flames, but the servant appeared to the sight of the crowd below, framed, as it were, in fire, at a blazing window. Loudly shouted the excited crowd, bidding the girl to save herself. But she was thinking of others. Throwing a bed from the window, she signalled to those below to stretch it out. Then, darting into the burning room, she brought one of the children of her employers, and dropped it safely on to the bed. Fiercer grew the flames, but again this humble heroine faced the fire, and saved the other children. Then the spectators, loudly cheering, begged her to save herself. But her strength was exhausted, she faltered in her jump, and was so injured that death soon came to her. My brothers, no one will raise a grand monument to Emma Willoughby, and Alice Ayres, who passed, the one through water, the other through fire, for Christ's dear sake. But surely in God's great Home of many mansions their names are written in letters of gold.
IV. BE STRONG IN FIGHTING THE BATTLE. You know that life is a great battlefield. Put on, then, the whole armour of God. Stand, as Christ's soldiers, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, with your faces to the foe. When Napoleon retreated from Moscow, and the main body had passed by, the mounted Cossacks hovered around the stragglers, who, overcome by cold and fatigue, could only force their way slowly through the snow. Many a weary Frenchman thus fell beneath the Cossack lances. Presently a band of these fierce horsemen saw a dark object on the snowy plain, and dashed towards it. They were face to face with a small body of French who had formed into a square to resist them, their bayonets at the charge. The Cossacks rode round and round, seeking for a weak place for attack, and finding none. At length they charged the square, and found it formed of frozen corpses. The Frenchmen had died whilst waiting for the foe. Brothers, may death find us fighting the good fight. "Be strong in the Lord."
(H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)
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